RO's Surat shenanigans had a Goa precedent in 2007


The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has already counted in its kitty one Lok Sabha seat (Surat) from the bastion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home State Gujarat.

However, the manner in which it happened -- more than a dollop of favourable adjudication by the Returning Officer who cited a frivolous discrepancy purportedly in signatures of proposers of the Congress candidate and the latter's abject organisational disarray -- has a striking similarity to what happened here in our own Goa 17 long years ago.

Circa 2007, the assembly election for the Taleigao constituency. Current Revenue Minister Atanasio (Babush) Monserrate, was the incumbent MLA and with the Congress which renominated him. However, Babush, who had quit the Pratapsingh Rane cabinet as TCP Minister, bruised and battered by the iconic 'Goa Bachao Abhiyan' agitation against his Region Plan-2011 painting Goa red, had other ideas.

Handed over the 'B Form', Babush went on to file his nomination papers complete with the affidavit that he is a member of the Congress. However, days later hours before the deadline, he filed his nomination papers again, this time swearing an affidavit that he is a member of the now defunct United Goans Democratic Party (UGDP), achieving a record of sorts, being a member of two political parties at the same instance. Mysteriously, the returning officer adjudicates and finds both the Monserrate papers -- as Congress candidate and as UGDP candidate -- valid at scrutiny the next day and a day later, Babush withdraws his papers filed as a Congress candidate and remains in the fray as the UGDP nominee.

The Congress was left red-faced, as despite being the ruling party then, it was left with no candidate in Taleigao. The only difference between Surat now and Taleigao then is that Babush was not elected unopposed as the late Somnath Zuwarkar, who had filed his papers as an Independent remained in the fray he had to go through the motions though he eventually won. Zuwarkar later instituted an election petition before the Bombay High Court at Goa, challenging the erroneous acceptance, by the returning officer, of Babush's nomination papers.

It was indeed an open-and-shut case but took quite a comical twist when the petition came to be withdrawn midway when a filial connection of sorts developed between Zuwarkar and Monserrate when the former's kin united in marriage with the latter's builder-buddy from the South! And lo and behold, Babush survived and thrived in the second of his five terms as a member of the Goa Legislative Assembly.

Cafe Ganesh: Slice of 'old Panaji' will survive 'smart' infusion

The ongoing 'smart city' onslaught, many believe will make the 180-year-old capital city unrecognisable. Yet there are slices of the 'Old Panaji' and its community which no amount of development and the thousands of crores of rupees spent in the bargain will be able to erase: its handful of family-run eateries and cafes.

Some that come to mind are Cafe Tato, Cafe Real, Cafe Bhosale and Cafe Aram but there is yet another ubiquitous one in the heart of the city that has recently been revived after its pandemic-hit shutdown four years ago -- Cafe Ganesh.

The current generation of the Kankonkar family that owns and operates 'Cafe Ganesh' is led by the older sibling Vijayanand Kankonkar. An alumni of the Goa Engineering College at Farmagudi, Vijayanand is an engineering wizard of sorts. He plies his professional trade as a freelancer providing engineering solutions to a range of clients in India and to companies abroad and is a go-to man for several of his peers, juniors and seniors for practical solutions to complex on-job problems.

In short, he had a super-successful career and didn't need to revive this simple, family-run Cafe Ganesh, dishing out patal, sukhi, tomato and usal bhaji with a range of other items. Especially not when in the time that the cafe was shut post pandemic, the Kankonkar patriarch who was the cafe's driving force had tragically died in a scooter accident.

Yet he did, and with it has aided in retaining a slice of the indomitable character of 'Old Panaji' despite the ongoing onslaught of the soon-to-be 'smart city'.

Goa’s political circus: BJP, Cong vie for the limelight

With just 10 days left until the Lok Sabha election in Goa, it seems like the political arena is hotter than a Goan summer day.

It doesn't take a genius to see that the battle for the top spot is a tug-of-war between the two national bigwigs – the BJP and Congress – in the State. Meanwhile, the Revolutionary Goans Party is playing the role of the awkward third wheel, hoping to make a splash but likely to end up drowning in obscurity.

But hey, let's hand it to the BJP, they're not taking any chances despite practically having the keys to the kingdom. Every BJP leader, from the big shots to the smallest karyakarta, is out there sweating it out, determined to clinch that victory.

Meanwhile, Congress, fashionably late to the party as always, is hustling to catch up. Their ground game is strong, and the response they're getting from the masses is giving the BJP a serious case of FOMO.

The saffron party is clutching onto every word that comes out of the Congress' mouth, fully aware that this battle won't be a walk in the park. It's a comedy of errors as the political titans trade blows, leaving the electorate scratching their heads wondering if this is really the best we've got.

As these political titans battle it out and their leaders break a sweat, let's just hope the voters show up in droves for the greatest show on earth - the Indian election circus. And hey, may the best man (or woman) win, or at least the one with the slickest campaign and the most convincing promises!

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