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Churchill Alemao: From daily wager to chief minister to jail

During his five-year tenure, Alemao’s assets rose by 108 per cent, from Rs 5.16 crore to Rs 11.68 crore.

Written by Zeeshan Shaikh | Mumbai |
August 7, 2015 1:16:30 am
Louis Berger bribery Case, Louis Berger case, Churchill Alemao, Churchill Alemao arrested, Alemao arrested, Louis Berger, Louis Berger bribery scandal, digambar kamat bribery, goa bribery scandal, digambar kamat, Indian express, india news, nation news Goa Crime Branch officials arrested ex PWD Minister of Goa Churchill Alemao in the Louis Berger bribery case for the JICA project in Panaji on Thursday. . (Source: PTI photo)

From working as a casual labourer for a daily wage of just Rs 5 to becoming Goa’s Chief Minister within three months of being elected MLA, it has been a roller coaster ride for Churchill Alemao. Alemao, who is facing bribery charges in the Louis Berger case, was arrested late on Wednesday night.

Known for his party-hopping ways, Alemao played a destabilising role in Goa’s politics, but survived due to his doggedness. That trait was also on display as he built his business empire.

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The eldest of six siblings from Varca, Alemao frequently talks about his humble beginnings. He claims to have worked as a casual labourer, and later as a sailor. He claims that his fortunes changed after he bought a fishing trawler. Alemao is reported to have interests in real estate, hospitality, fishing trawlers and also owns a football team.

“I was never a politician. I was a social activist who was pushed into politics by people,” Alemao told The Indian Express in an interview last month.
His detractors, however, allege that the Alemao family made it big because of illegal activities, citing cases of smuggling filed against them. In 1994, Alemao was briefly arrested on smuggling charges. His younger brother, Alvernaz, was allegedly stabbed to death by a Customs official who had reportedly apprehended him while he was smuggling gold.

Alemao was first elected MLA on a Congress ticket in 1989. Three months later, angry at being not included in the cabinet, Alemao rebelled and brought down the then Pratapsingh Rane government. He went on to become Goa’s first Catholic Chief Minister for just 18 days, leading the Progressive Democratic Front government.

In 1996, Alemao was elected MP from South Goa on a United Goa Democratic Party ticket. He returned to the Congress in 1999, and won his assembly seat.

He was defeated in the 2002 state elections, but became a Congress MP in 2004. In a sting operation conducted then, he was caught on camera purportedly demanding a bribe to take up a project under the MPLAD scheme.

Alemao later left the Congress again, and contested the 2007 Goa elections on a Save Goa Front party ticket. The Congress later inducted him into the state cabinet, and make him PWD minister. It was during his term as PWD minister that the contract was awarded to Louis Berger.

During his five-year tenure, Alemao’s assets rose by 108 per cent, from Rs 5.16 crore to Rs 11.68 crore.

His recent separation from the Congress stems from the growing opposition to Alemao at the grassroots level. Alemao’s decision to secure tickets for five of his family members did not go down well in South Goa, leading to the defeat of his entire family.

He quit the Congress in 2014 after his daughter and political heir, Valanka, was denied a Lok Sabha ticket.

Alemao, who claims he is a victim of political vendetta, now stands isolated, with none of the major parties backing him. But his detractors point out that he has a history of turning around things in his favour.

“He has survived in difficult situations. Things have changed politically in the country and voters have become more intelligent. It may be difficult for him, but you can never count out Alemao from Goa’s politics,” said a sitting Goa MLA and a known detractor of Alemao.

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