In this Idea Exchange moderated by Assistant Editor Swaraj Thapa,Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar speaks about winning the Goa elections and his plans for the state
Swaraj Thapa: You are heading the new BJP government in Goa. How strong a mandate for change did you get in the state elections?
People came out in large numbers to vote. I had requested voters to give me more than 21 seats and keep the Congress at below 10 seats. They have done that. For the first time since statehood,Goa has had this kind of a mandate. Otherwise the seat distribution used to be 16-14 between the two main parties,with seven to eight people deciding the fate of the state. That has resulted in a lot of damage to the state. This time,people from all sections voted for us. We managed to break the trend of the minorities staying away from the BJP.
M K Venu: Explain to us the dynamics of the Goa elections. Why is it always so precarious?
Goa has about 33 per cent minority voting and BJP does not usually get the minority vote. In 1999,we managed to get 10 seats and when I became chief minister for the first time in 2000,it was with the help of 11 breakaway MLAs from the Congress. In 2002,I dissolved the assembly. I was very sure of getting a majority. Unluckily,the day I dissolved the assembly,the Godhra incident happened in Gujarat and there was a polarisation of votes. We had to take the help of smaller groups to form the government and when the Congress came to power at the Centre in 2004,its first task was to destabilise my government. In the last elections,we lost marginally but we were not able to win the confidence of the minorities and couldnt get those crucial five to six additional seats. I get personal votes from the minorities,but they feared the party. In the last five years,we worked specifically to build their confidence. We wouldnt have won certain seats unless the minorities had rallied behind us. We gave them proper representation. For the first time,Goa voted as a whole. In earlier elections,voting was according to vote-bank strategy.
Coomi Kapoor: One of your first acts after becoming CM was to lower the tax on petrol. Can Goa afford that? Is it a model that can be replicated in the rest of the country?
Goa has a heavy vehicle density. Up to 87 per cent of the families have at least one motorcycle which they use for going to work. We have given relief to middle-and lower-middle-class people and to an extent,the poor. With the additional money,they can improve their purchasing power. Worldwide,petrol prices are in the Rs 40-50 range, so why should Indians pay Rs 70-80 just because the Central government wants to collect revenue on petrol,sometimes almost 50 per cent in taxes? You cannot tax people at such high levels. A 10-12 per cent taxation is reasonable. Other states might not replicate it but they should lower the taxation.
Dilip Bobb: How have you managed to make up the revenue losses?
I have increased the taxation on liquor by 5 per cent. That would fetch me half the revenue loss. Goa has the cheapest liquor in the country. Theres a slight tax increase on junk food. Thirdly,theres an increase in tax on tobacco and an entry toll tax that is being levied maybe after June,where every outside vehicle that comes into the state will have to pay about Rs 100. Goa is a tourist state,so petrol price reduction reduces the cost of travel for the tourist.
M K Venu: Cash transfers as a way of delivering subsidies have been successful in some states. Nitish Kumar has also succeeded in delivering welfare programmes through cash transfer but it does not happen in states where basic governance is not good. What is your experience with cash transfer?
It can work across the board. Worldwide,everyone is doing cash transfers. The extent you go to is debatable. The first cash transfer I did was during my last term in office. I started a pension scheme called Dayanand for elderly people with disabilities. One in four families in Goa gets a pension benefit of Rs 2,000 a month. Almost 85-90 per cent people put it to good use. You will find that cash transfers are effective up to 75-80 per cent,even if you consider some leakages. I was the first in the country to use an electronic transfer system in 2002 for this Dayanand scheme. Today,60,000 people a day get credit in their bank accounts. If you do it through bank accounts,there is a record. At any stage,you can get an independent auditor to verify the accounts and track the guilty. So even if there is misuse,you can counter it with vigilance.
Anmol (student,Apeejay School,Saket): You have reduced taxes on petrol,but petroleum is an exhaustible natural resource. By making it cheaper,are you encouraging wastage of this natural resource?
You are linking a mega issue with a smaller issue. I dont think I am increasing consumption merely by reducing the price of petrol. There may be a 1-2 per cent increase in consumption because of that. Basically,the reduction is for people to save on their cost of transportation. Most Goans use vehicles because there are no proper bus services. One way to tackle the problem is introduce more buses or rapid transport systems.
M K Venu: Are you looking at a mass rapid transit system?
Yes. We are first improving the bus system. We will double the fleet in one year. And we are providing more comfortable buses. You cannot expect those who usually travel in an A/C car to take a bus on a sultry day. I am going for bicycle lanes in areas reserved for pedestrians and bicycles.
Swaraj Thapa: You are said to be a good man in the wrong party. Have you ever thought of leaving the BJP?
If I leave the party,it will be when I leave politics. It is the right party and it is only because I am in the BJP that they have allowed me to perform. I got offers from top leaders in the Congress but I considered that negative for me. My party allowed me to perform. I saw how Congress treated its leaders when they were in power in Goa. My party has never put pressure on me for anything illegal.
Coomi Kapoor: But you made a remark about Advani and rancid pickle that got you into trouble.
I did not use the word rancid. I respect Advaniji and consider him my idol,how can I make such a comment? And it had nothing to do with Advaniji. I was speaking about Sachin Tendulkar who had then scored 138 in Sri Lanka. I referred to how his playing matures by the day. To which the interviewer added,like pickle which tastes better with time. I replied saying that with pickle,there is the danger of it spoiling. Then he asked me who is your best leader and I said,Advaniji. The two comments were broken and brought together.
Swaraj Thapa: You have talked about bringing a younger leadership into the party.
I still talk about it. My logic is very clear: older people should guide younger people into politics. In politics,there is no 60-year age limit because sometimes,experience counts more. BJP should groom young leaders now because in the next 5-10 years,if you dont have good leaders from the younger generation to vibe with the youth,you will find it very difficult.
Vandita Mishra: You said Goa voted as whole and BJP has got a considerable section of the minority vote as well. What did BJP do differently this time?
Goa never voted as a whole before. There used to be two regional groups called the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party,which was a predominantly Hindu party,and the United Goan Party,a predominantly Catholic party. United Goan became Congress and Catholics voted for the Congress as a whole. To win the state,they would need 12-15 per cent of the Hindu vote which they used to manage. The last seven years of Congress rule has seen nothing but the looting of Goa. Most people thought the administration would collapse and that the Congress government had to go. As I said,we developed confidence among the minorities by our actions. My communication with Catholic groups was always good. I have many friends amongst them and the Muslims too. But this time we communicated with them on a larger platform. I convinced leaders like Matanhy Saldanha to join us. Other candidates were given tickets in Hindu strongholds,sure-shot seats for the BJP. We could have won those with a Hindu candidate too but we gave them to Catholic candidates who had worked with us for a few years. I think we have more minority MLAs today than the Congress does.
M K Venu: Can BJP replicate this minority winning model in other states?
I do not call it a model. I sincerely believe in it. I am from the RSS and it did not teach me hatred for minorities. This thinking may have come because of fringe groups who put a sticker on RSS as anti-minority. RSS taught me to respect other religions but to be proud of being a Hindu. I still believe in those principles. As a government and as an administrator,you have to treat every citizen equally. If you have to govern a country,you need to treat every strata of society equally. It has to be an inclusive government,it has to represent all sections of society. How do you do it is up to the party. I see no reason why in the next five-ten years,the corrupt Congress should represent minorities. Minorities have aspirations and good government is the right of everyone.
Manoj C G: You represent a state which has a considerable Christian population. Should India have a Christian president ?
I have no objection. If there is a good person,he can be supported. But dont make a show of it. If there is a person of that repute,BJP will support. For instance,Mr Kalam became president during Vajpayees term. Why should you question a Catholic becoming President?
Dilip Bobb: Goa,as a state,has a major problem of mining and the mining mafia. What you can do about it?
Goas mining problem is different from that of other states. It hasnt gone down to the level of the mafia yet. Even during 2010-2011,60 per cent of the mining in the state was reasonably legal. There could have been some minor infringements. Last year,we had 10-20 per cent illegal mining. I will ensure from September that there is not a single tonne of illegal mining.
M K Venu: You need to control illegal mining,but if production is dropping,is that good for the country?
Goa cant go into unsustainable mining. It has to keep the mining quantum,which is 40 million tonne. In Goa,there are two aspects of mining,one is the environment and the other is transportation. We need to create an infrastructure where trucks will not occupy most of the roads. There were 25,000 trucks plying on 60 kilometres of road,they were virtually occupying the entire road.
Nishant (student,Apeejay School): With lakhs of tourists every year,do you have security concerns?
Everything is comparative. Goa has a very high inflow of tourists. We get 30 lakh tourists annually. So there are two tourists per person. We expect it to be 40 lakh by next year. Compared to Delhi,Goa is 100 per cent more secure. The crime in Goa is mostly property crime. They are not personal crimes. The murders are mostly by migrants who have disputes with labour contractors. Local murder and rape is very rare.
Swaraj Thapa: But your predecessor made a remark about womens dress code.
I would prefer a girl to dress decently but decency has to be defined by her and not by us. It does not give a male the right to rape her,attack her or molest her.
Dilip Bobb: Certain parts of Goa have been overrun by Russians or Israelis. Indians feel unwelcome.
Come to Goa in six months and you will see a change. I am not promising that there wont be Russian and Israeli restaurants but if you are still unwelcome,lodge a complaint and I will ensure that their licences are cancelled.
M K Venu: Are reports of benami purchase of land by Russians true?
Not benami,some are illegal. There is an area with a congregation of Russians and Israelis. They can be terror targets. The Israelis,particularly,may be terror targets. I pointed out three terror tactics which can be used against India. Number one is direct bombing,explosives and murders. Then there are drugs and third,fake currency. The Home Ministry pointed to 5-10 cases of fake currency but there are more than 200.
M K Venu: Many foreigners and people from other parts of India buy land in Goa. Is Goa thinking in terms of enacting a law where outsiders are not allowed to buy real estate?
Tourism is 100 per cent FDI. What they do here is they set up a tourism company and that company buys the land for tourism. But then,these companies hardly do any tourism business.
Transcribed by Pragya Kaushika and Sweta Dutta