AAP Goa as Colonial Agent?

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Jason Keith Fernandes

While large numbers of its members are no doubt motivated by a genuine interest in redressing the many ills that plague Goan electoral democracy, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Goa could in fact be seen as antithetical to the pressing needs of Goans,  pushing an agenda that other national parties, operating from Delhi have done before. If the traditional national parties like the Congress and the BJP had helped, with the help of local elites, to usher in forces of unbridled capitalism in the guise of development and Hindu nationalism in Goa, AAP seems to be operating within this same model. The only difference is that AAP promises that it will deliver Goa from rampant corruption. And yet, when examined from the perspective of the nexus between New Delhi and local dominant caste landed elites AAP’s claims of difference and salvation fall flat on its face.

To examine the claim of this Delhi-Goa colonial nexus we need to explore the case of the much-vaunted Goa Bachao Abhiyan (GBA) or Save Goa Movement. While it was spurred on by the genuine concerns of many Goans as to the way Goa was being destroyed, one could also see in it the operation of colonial power. The GBA appeared at a particular moment in Goan history, when land in Goa came to be eyed by external, i.e. Indian, realtors. Thus, the existing concerns of the larger populace were whipped to frenzy by the local elite to ensure that it was the interests of the local land-owning classes and construction firms that was secured. After an initial amount of muscle-flexing, that demonstrated to external realtors the power of the local elite the movement was effectively killed, when the representatives of the GBA on the Task Force for the Regional Plan (RP) 2021 resigned their positions.

As a result of this regrettable history, nothing emerged out of the GBA except for a paralysis of the Regional Plan process, even as the real-estate business continues as usual.  Indeed, the lesson that if foreign capital wants to enter Goa it would have to be in partnership with the local elite seems to have been learned admirably in case of the usurping of Tiracol by Leading Hotels. This unfortunate outcome, however, is very much in keeping with the history of popular movements in Goa since 1961, where the manipulation of the Goan population, and especially the bahujan Catholic populations of the Old Conquests, by dominant caste elites has been a standard. The manner in which bahujan Catholics are manipulated deserves reflection all by itself. At this point I need only point to the manner in which bahujan Catholic leaders are criminalized and dismissed, leaving these groups leaderless, even as the upper-caste interests that control the media offer empty promises to these groups. In every movement, one sees that the upper caste elites gain greater autonomy for unaccountable behavior, while the masses that agitate receive no benefit at all.

These forms of Goan politics seem to be repeating themselves under the AAP. To begin with, as many have pointed out, the way the AAP is operating, by focusing on the fears of the populations in the Old Conquests suggests that it is repeating this old formula of merely harnessing Old Conquest fears to ensure the success of the upper-caste and elite class leadership. While one need not be immediately suspect if one is upper-caste, the fact that the leadership of AAP, both in Goa, as well as in Delhi is almost exclusively upper-caste is a matter of grave concern.

What is also interesting about AAP Goa is that one can deduce in it the desire of well-meaning non-Goans who have settled in Goa to influence local politics. This desire to participate is welcome, indeed many of them come with exciting ideas that we can benefit from. But one nevertheless needs to question the balance of power under which this happens.  A number of Goa’s problems are in part the result of Indian desires to settle here, as well as the manner in which Goa has been hitched to India. As individuals, we are very often also unconscious representatives of large structural powers. As such, the fact that the articulation of so much of AAP’s outreach is in compliance with a national culture, manifest through the Gandhi topi, the Hindi sloganeering, even the Hindi language outreach of the leaders, makes one question which structural interests are being served, the nationalist designs of the AAP, or those of the average Goan? Is Delhi, or the desires of the national elites, dictating what happens in Goa, or do Goans dictate what happens in Goa? The dominance of Hindi in the outreach of AAP Goa seems to suggest that it is formulating an agenda that wishes to be in sync with the assumptions of the Delhi outfit.  In such a context, especially where Kejriwal chose to holler Bharat Mata ki Jai, what is the position of AAP on Special Status for Goa?

Further, AAP Goa has the grandiose scheme of contesting all 40 seats, with the apparently single point agenda of combating corruption. But is there really a lack of critical issues in Goa that one must focus solely on corruption? In this context, it should be noted that in a rather long interview with the Indian Express, Valmiki Naik secretary of AAP Goa, noticeably skirts issues critical to the bahujan and marginalized groups, such as that of the vexed Medium of Instruction issue. Besides, it can argue that corruption narrowly conceived as economic corruption alone is the most important agenda only when one is speaking from an upper-caste position. Viewed from a bahujan perspective, whether Hindu or Catholic, it is the destruction of the twin evils of Brahmanism and Hindutva that emerges as the priority. While not an insignificant issue, dealing with corruption can come later. A failure to realize this priority, once again because it is the local dominant castes that are in control of AAP Goa, will ensure that the placing of 40 candidates in the fray will only result in the splitting of the anti-BJP vote, and the BJP’s eventual success. A refusal to heed this reality will suggest that AAP’s designs are geared more towards local dominant caste assertion, as well as towards the desire of AAP Delhi to make a national mark, rather than addressing critical Goan needs.

A leaf from Goan history should offer good reason why AAP Goa should heed this caution. In the run-up to the first elections In Goa under Indian rule the Indian National Congress (INC) was extremely confident of a sweeping INC victory in the 1963 elections. Such was its confidence, that as Parag Parobo has pointed out in his book on early post-colonial Goa, the All India Congress General Secretary K. K. Shah announced that the INC did not require any special manifesto for Goa. All of this while tickets were given almost exclusively to individuals from dominant castes. Just as supporters of AAP today dismiss the need for a regional party, so too in 63 the INC was also confident of success because of its national location. And yet the INC experienced a crushing defeat at the polls. Not only did they not gain a single seat from Goa, but in many locations the candidates lost their deposits. The moral of that election was that local issues, not national were critical to electioneering, and secondly that issues of caste justice cannot be ignored and simply dismissed. The result of that election should offer sobering advice for AAP Goa that in many ways could be said to be repeating those mistakes.

This is not, however, necessarily the end. Merely because it currently threatens to operate as an agent of colonial rule, there is no reason, especially given the genuine concerns of large numbers of its members, that the AAP in Goa cannot reinvent itself. The question is, will it?

AAP: Clear and Present Danger?

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Jason Keith Fernandes

With the elections to the state legislature in the not so distant future the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Goa has begun its campaigning in earnest. As is well known, AAP has been projecting itself as a credible choice on the basis of its promise to deliver good, i.e. corruption free, governance. The question, however, is whether the AAP should be judged merely by its rhetoric, or should it be examined against a broader canvas?

Recent history demonstrates that electoral decisions determined solely by the theme of corruption have ensured that we have moved from the frying pan into the fire largely because we have failed to examine the politics that these electoral options practice. Take the example of the Modi government now wreaking havoc across India. Modi was elected into power because so many people, rightly fed up with the Congress, decided that the man was a good administrator and deserved a right to govern the country. Closer home in Goa, fatigue of the never-ending corruption scandals presided over by the Congress enabled the BJP to come to power.

We now realize that in addition to merely continuing the corrupt practices of the Congress, the BJP is also committed to a kind of fascist agenda that is difficult to undo even after they have been removed from power. This is a kind of moral corruption that is difficult to undo largely because, as I will go on to show, Hindu nationalism itself is never challenged. As such, when evaluating AAP in Goa it is imperative that their proximity to the agents and logics of Hindu nationalism must be strictly evaluated.

An evaluation of the AAP along this axis must begin with a statement by Dr. Dattaram Desai, the AAP candidate for North Goa in the previous Lok Sabha elections in 2014. At that time, Desai indicated in a local newspaper along the lines that he saw no problem with the RSS and that it was just another nationalist organization. When Desai was confronted on this matter at a public meeting conducted by the AAP he denied that he was a part of the RSS, and denounced the RSS as a communal organization. However, it seemed that he did so largely because he had been hounded into that position after being asked a series of leading questions. Desai had been asked at that meeting to issue a public statement to the effect that he did not approve of the RSS, something he agreed to, but one that, to the best of my knowledge, was not issued. Desai continues to be a leading member of AAP in Goa, and in light of his past comments, this fact should be a cause for concern.

At the above mentioned meeting Dr. Oscar Rebello, also a prominent member of the AAP in Goa, sought to clarify issues regarding the links between the RSS and AAP. Using characteristically simplistic logic, Rebello pointed out that he had friends in the RSS, but that did not necessarily make him a member of the RSS. Rebello’s logic may be simplistic, but it is often winning in its presentation. Of course one cannot, especially in a small place like Goa, deny people entry into a party because they were once members of the BJP. Perhaps they may have, as is suggested in the case of Desai, realized that the BJP will not deliver.  But the problem with the RSS, and more importantly Hindu nationalism, lies in the logics that we internalize owing to a lifetime of being immersed in it. If these logics are not actively challenged we too become part of the Hindutva machine.

In this context, the decision of the AAP in Goa to name its outreach program the Goa Jodo campaign is quite disturbing. Why privilege Hindi in a state with no lack of local languages? Because a non-Hindi Goan-ness is suspect? How is this position different from that of most Hindu nationalists and the implicit understanding that it is primarily Hindi and Hindu culture that defines Indian nationalism? One should bear in mind that Hindi nationalism, as one can surmise from the old slogan “Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan” has never been far away from Hindu nationalism. This desire to run with the Hindi-wallas can also be seen  in the video of Desai’s response discussed earlier, where it appears that Rebello refers to Desai as Dr. Desaiji. Now one is entirely at liberty to add honorifics to people’s name. The problem emerges when one realizes that the ji has become popular in Goa with the rise of Hindu nationalism in the past couple of years. The question emerges therefore, can we rely on such a group to assert the rights of Goans which necessarily runs against Hindi and Hindu nationalism, such as the demand of Special Status, and assert our right to be different within India?

But it is not merely the local AAP that has disturbing connections with the RSS or is blasé about Hindu nationalism. Pamela D’Mello writing for an on-line magazine pointed to the disturbing relationship of Dinesh Waghela to Hindu rightist outfits. Waghela was charged with setting up AAP in Goa, and at that point just like Desai went on record, to suggest that he did not see what was wrong with people from the RSS joining the party.

What also needs to be pointed out is that AAP’s insistence on its promised good-governance as a central reason for being a choice in the upcoming elections partakes in the Hindu Right’s pushing of strong administrators, whether Modi or our very own Parrikar. This is not to suggest that good governance is not an important issue. It is. However, we need to recognize that a limited understanding of corruption, and governance emerges from the very upper-caste and middle-class reasonings that have generated the Hindutva upsurge in the country. It is this kind of unthinking of, and challenge to Hindutva logics that is critical and necessary if AAP in Goa should emerge as a safer option than it currently seems to be.

Most disturbing of all, however, are the actions of the party supremo, Arvind Kejriwal. Kejriwal has had no problem in the past drawing such Hindu spiritual leaders like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Baba Ramdev into his movement. Right from the get go therefore, Kejriwal has violated secularism by mingling the Hindu religion with his politics. More recently, despite the livelihood and environmental violations involved in setting up the venue for the World Culture Festival on the banks of the river Yamuna, and in contravention of his own position on corruption, Kejriwal saw it fit to attend the event, and kowtow before Ravi Shankar.  As distasteful as this may be to some, it is not necessarily out of character for unprincipled political leaders who need to engage in populist measures if they are to stay in power. It is, therefore, precisely because AAP Goa will have to play by established rules of the game once it is in power, that we need to evaluate them stringently before they get into power. In light of this, AAP Goa’s connections to soft Hindu nationalism present a clear and present danger.

First published in the O Heraldo dated 29 April 2016

Lux in tenebris: Paulo Varela Gomes

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Jason Keith Fernandes

525289Paulo Varela Gomes succumbed to cancer on Saturday, the 30th of April 2016. He was familiar to many Goans both because he headed the Delegation of the Fundação Oriente in Goa for two terms, 1996-1998 and 2007-2009, and for his book on Goan churches.

It was in the first capacity that I met with Gomes. Prior to this meeting I had been warned against him. He was racist and offensive, I had been told. Also that he was just another one of these supercilious Portuguese, mocking Goa and Goans from their metropolitan position. I have no idea what pushed me to meet with the man despite these warnings, but I did, and I have not once regretted that decision.

Gomes was in fact–to be fair to the person who warned me against him–pessimistic, foul mouthed, dismissive, and from time to time a tad racist. But there was a logic to his madness. The prickly exterior was armor, but breach that spiky defence and one realized that Gomes’ barbs were the provocations of a profoundly sensitive and giving man with a wicked sense of humour. A man who relentlessly asked questions, and never accepted the given until it bore up to the critique he subjected it to. When caught, he would laughingly confess to his prejudices, and it was this intellectual honesty and the ability to confront oneself that has left a lasting impact on me.

As our association matured Gomes grew to become an intellectual father. Lucky enough to live in the same neighbourhood as he did in Goa, I found myself able to go over to his home, engage in conversations that went on for hours, and borrow books from his library. Gomes’ library was an intellectual wonderland because he was a widely read man. Despite his learning and the difference in our ages, ours was not an unequal relationship. Gomes suffered my irreverence, and indeed encouraged it with his own. It was thanks to these conversations that I was able to sharpen my perspectives, not just on Goa, but also on Portugal, a country that has come to be my second home. Gomes was among the first to point me towards developing a deeper understanding of the Bijapuri Sultanate and make sense of Goan history in that context. As luck will have it, the idea of an Islamicate Goa has now gained more appreciation, and for this alone, Gomes has left a lasting legacy on the way Goa can and should be studied. Gomes was also the one who pointed to the complex history of the Padroado and the manner in which by the time it was wound up it was Goan priests who were the stoutest defenders of this right of the Portuguese state. It was also Gomes who problematised, to my delight, the term Indo-Portuguese. Asking several piercing questions of this category that is so taken for granted he revealed so many problems with the term, not least being the fact that it can be crafted only in the context of the peculiar racist politics of the British Empire.

Perhaps the greatest testament to Gomes’s wide reading, his ability to go against the grain, ask unorthodox questions, and come up with a new, more meaningful vision, is what was possibly his last academic publication; Whitewash, Red Stone: A History of Church Architecture in Goa (2011). In this book Gomes broke with the hitherto established ways of looking at ecclesiastical architecture in Goa. His argument was bold, and there can never really be any going back to earlier ways of looking at architecture in Goa. His study demonstrated how the position that Goan elites chose in the conflict between of Padroado and Propoganda Fide had a distinct influence on the architecture of our churches. It is the conflict between these that led to the emergence of specifically Goan architecture. Gomes’s argument was that churches in Goa were not Portuguese buildings, nor were they mere copies of European buildings. They were in fact entirely Goan. These buildings participated in a European vocabulary of building construction, but the way these various elements and plans were assembled was entirely Goan. Churches in Goa were Goan buildings, constructions of a native elite who were making a statement about the uniqueness of their culture and their place in the world. It was for this reason that the Goan builders of these churches continued to hold on to a Baroque architectural style even in nineteenth century when the days of Baroque were long over and other styles were appearing in British India. Whitewash, Red Stone is a critical work that would allow Goan ecclesiastical architecture to be appreciated more profoundly and deserves a wider audience than the one it currently enjoys.

In making this argument, Gomes went beyond, and challenged, two orthodoxies. The first was the one that seeks to delegitimize the uniqueness of Goan Catholicism, and the second that sees Goans merely as blind copy-cats of the Portuguese. In a nuanced argument, Gomes acknowledged that Goans were South Asian alright, but pointed out that they were South Asians who participated and innovated within European frames and hence they were also European. It takes not only a profound understanding of the field to make such an argument, it also requires that one have a profound respect for the people one is studying. As an architectural historian, and as one with deep friendships with Goans, Gomes had both in abundance. In his passing, therefore, there are many in Goa who will feel as devastated as they did at the death of the late Pedro Adão, Portuguese Consul in Goa between 2005 and 2006. There are few like them, persons who are willing to step out of their comfort zones, make themselves vulnerable, and engage meaningfully with the local. For this reason their memories will indubitably be long cherished.

When I moved to Portugal I imagined that Gomes and I would be able to pick up where he had left off, the same rambling, but always stimulating conversations. Unfortunately, however, the distance between our residences, and the distractions of my frequent travel between Lisbon and Goa ensured that this was not to be.  Our meetings were too few and far between, and our interactions limited mostly to virtual correspondence. Further, the possibilities for physical encounters became impossible after his tumour made conversation difficult. And yet, it is a testament to the loyalty, and the grace, of the man that he was known to respond to every communication that one sent to him, almost until the very end. My own experience was that our correspondences became more intense and poignant and will remain a cherished part of my virtual archive.

As much as one mourns the passing of Paulo Varela Gomes the fact is that there can be no crushing sorrow simply because every cherished memory brings to mind not just his courage, but also his irreverence, and this brings a smile even amongst the tears. Gomes’s life was a lesson in picking up challenges and besting them. How else does one explain the élan with which he took up writing fiction in the last phase of his life? Of course, to those who knew him there was little surprise. For someone who was a natural teacher, and taught through lively debate, there was absolutely no doubt that the man was a natural raconteur.

Paulo Varela Gomes, my friend, father, philosopher, and guide. Our world is diminished by your absence, but it would have been so much lesser without you.

(First published in the O Heraldo on 13 May 2016)

Sairat and the Banality of Violence

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By KAUSTUBH NAIK

Have we ever bothered to think why the tragedies of Delta Meghwals and Rohith Vemulas fail to enter the mainstream public imagination? What discourse constructs our world of realities where the inhuman tragedies that continue to perpetrate the horrors of caste and gender violence fail to even attract sympathy, let alone bringing those involved in committing these heinous crimes to punishment? Rather, the mainstream public sphere is characterized by a perpetual invisibilizing and negation of the violence that emanates from caste and patriarchal structures. Sairat, a film by Nagraj Manjule, is a cinematic intervention against such constructions of reality and compels us to look beyond what meets the eye.

sairat-marathi-movie

Those who have seen Manjule’s debut film Fandry would remember the iconic climax where the protagonist Jabya flings a stone with full vigor towards the camera, as if it were aimed at the audience. Sairat is perhaps a reminder that the stone that Jabya threw at us in Fandry is not sufficient to demolish the structures of caste and patriarchy. As I was returning from watching Sairat, I was informed about the gruesome rape and murder of a female Dalit law student from Perumbavoor in Kerala. On another Whatsapp group, we were told that a Dalit student from Delhi University has been at the receiving end of casteist abuse by his senior from the law school, and the officer at the concerned police station has been hesitant to file the First Information Report. Sairat highlights that fact that such incidents are recurring events and realities that one often chooses to ignore, consciously or otherwise.

Archi- Sairat’s female protagonist- is a daughter of the local MLA and her access to the pleasures of affluence are made abundantly visible through her powerfully crafted character. Archi’s character transgresses the norm of the submissive, shy ‘heroines’ in mainstream Indian films. Manjule, while circumventing these clichés, gives a great deal of agency to Archi’s character and boldly marks her desires. Manjule also highlights that the bravado that Archi exhibits is not accessible to other female characters in the film. Archi’s ability to transgress into a strong female character is enabled by a patriarchal structure of power that she inhibits as a daughter of the local MLA belonging to the dominant caste. In a scene where Archi drives a tractor and stops at the male protagonist Parshya’s house, Parshya’s mother looks at Archi and says, “You drive tractor like a man”. Upon looking at Archi, Parshya’s mother’s face is marked by an expression that is simultaneously in awe of Archi for driving a tractor and aware of the realities that confine her or her daughter within the boundaries of their lower caste female subjecthood. This moment reminded me of the gruesome events that took place in Khairlanji a decade ago where four members of the Bhotmange family belonging to a Dalit caste were murdered by the members of politically dominant Kunbi caste. The women of the family, Surekha and Priyanka, were paraded naked in public and later hacked to death by mutilating their bodies. One of the many things that had attracted the ire of the Kunbis was the fact that Priyanka dared to ride a bicycle to school while her mother Surekha had fought for retaining the ownership of her own piece of land. It is the same unholy collusion of patriarchy and caste that ‘allows’ Archi to ride a Royal Enfield while simultaneously  making Priyanka Bhotmange a victim of caste violence in Khairlanji for riding a bicycle. Manjule’s brilliance lies in how routinely he highlights this difference just by the subtle expression on the mother’s face, bereft of any melodrama that one has come to associate with mainstream Indian cinema.

In a scene towards the second half of the film, Manjule crafts another such moment that succinctly captures the core of the film. Archi’s father has to surrender his candidature to Sonal Tai, a female colleague in his party. This surrender on the father’s part, as we are made to understand, is a result of the ‘shame’ that Archi has brought to him and his family by eloping with a boy from lower caste. Earlier in an opening sequence, the father is shown criticizing the opposition contestant suggesting that since the opposition leaders cannot ‘control’ the ladies of their own family they are unfit to rule the constituency. One can not help but notice the blow his male ego has received from two women with aspirations, his daughter Archi, and Sonal Tai. The shot closes with a decisive look on the father’s face that is linked with the climax of the film that, like in Fandry, leaves the viewer shaken and speechless.

The daily violence of caste and patriarchy is often invisiblised in the mainstream public discourse, including films. Manjule’s films, inspired by the Ambedkarite discourse, forcefully draw attention to these routine acts of violence in a layered manner compelling the audience to take note of the same. Underneath Sairat’s narrative as an epic love story lie the banal realities of violence of both caste and patriarchy. Sairat, and Fandry are reminders that we need to open ourselves to these lived realities of the society that we inhibit, whose denial otherwise validates our comfort zones.sairat-marathi-movie

First published in The Goan on 9 May 2016)

Watching Question Mark and Sairat, thinking Elections

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By AMITA KANEKAR

This last week was an exciting and much-awaited one for me, beginning as it did with Francis de Tuem’s new tiatr Question Mark and ending with Nagraj Manjule’s new film Sairat. Both productions were brilliant in their own way, and both reminded me of the elections on the Goan horizon.

question markQuestion Mark is a must-watch, raising important questions about political corruption and hypocrisy in the current context of Goa. It combines this political agenda with ambitious technique, using not just the usual media of drama, song and music, but also powerpoint presentation, motion picture, and old news videos.

One of the old news videos is of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar as opposition leader, giving a fiery speech against the casinos; his government’s u-turn on this issue looks even worse when placed next to the bombast. Other questions raised were about the creation of the powerful Investment Promotion Board (IPB) apparently to fast-track questionable projects, the attacks on grants for English medium schools, the changed landuse in the Regional Plans which have allowed exploitation of forestland, the pushing through of DefExpo, and the strange death of Fr. Bismarque Dias. At one point, there is even a suggestion that that the army take on the job of dealing with corrupt politicians.

One hopes of course that the last suggestion is not serious, since the army’s record in places like Kashmir is far worse than anything we have experienced in Goa. In fact, public control over politicians is better than the rest of the ruling establishment – army, police, top bureaucrats and judiciary – who are not accountable even once in five years.

sairatAt first sight, Sairat couldn’t be more different from the political discussion of Question Mark. The film was said to be a love story, but it turned out to be THE love story of South Asia. Not surprisingly, it is a disturbing, or even harrowing, film, for South Asia is not a place that likes love. This is a place where it is easy to get rusticated, evicted, thrashed, jailed, and killed, sometimes with your family, just for being in love. The film shows how the main roadblock for love is caste, with a savarna landlord family stopping at nothing to end their daughter’s relationship with a Dalit. Even the friends and family members of the boy are not spared, being thrashed, driven out of the village, and socially boycotted, and not just by the savarnas but also their own caste folk.

Both the productions see women as central to change. In the tiatr, it is women, as activists, journalists, lawyers or ordinary villagers, who take the lead in challenging the politicians. A noted achievement in Sairat is the character of Archana, a rich upper caste girl who challenges patriarchal norms by riding a motorbike and physically taking on her father’s thugs as well as the police, to save her lover. But she does all this from her dominant caste position, and suffers when she loses this position by eloping with him.

The other common thread is the politician as problem. Sairat’s politician is the representative of not just big money, corruption and goons, as in Question Mark, but also Brahmanism, landlordism, and patriarchy. Like in Question Mark, his patronage of local sports clubs and festivals gains him votes, but none of his voters can dream of questioning him between elections.

And this is where questions about Goa’s next elections rise.

As Francis de Tuem declares, the BJP must go. But to be replaced by what? The Congress again, which laid the basis for the BJP in the first place? Or the smaller parties, who all talk of stopping the land-swallowing projects and corruption initiated by the big two, but rarely about the rampant social exclusion in Goa, be it caste discrimination in jobs, the promotion of Brahmanism via language et al, or the minoritising of non-Hindus. In fact, the anti-corruption movement looks likely to add to this exclusion unless it first opposes the way the poor are illegalised by this society and thus forced into corruption.

Perhaps, given the limited choices, what we should aim for is simply a weak government. This may sound strange, given the way the media sells the benefits of strong and stable government. But what this means is often the power to ignore criticism and overrule normal procedures, as in the creation of the all-powerful IPB, or the ignoring of Supreme Court directives against illegal mining, or the pushing through of unpopular projects backed by local elites and national/international capital. A weak government, i.e. a minority or coalition government, would serve better, with more assembly discussions and cabinet meetings, rather than dictatorial orders, and where everybody might be too concerned about their survival to do much damage.

Kanshi Ram, the founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party, had declared his opposition to stable government a long time ago (India Today, 1993); given the caste and class background of most politicians, he said, political stability and strong governments only strengthened the dominant sections of society.  This sentiment is echoed by Ambedkarite activists in Goa today; their struggles to improve the living conditions of Dalit communities in Pernem have found most politicians allied with the dominant castes to oppose change. A strong government, they say, just strengthens the status quo.

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 5 May, 2016)