AAP’s chief ministerial candidate for Goa, who took voluntary retirement from government to join politics, discusses poll prospects with SWETA DUTTA
You are new in politics and leading a party debuting in Goa. Is it intimidating?
I am three-and-a-half months in politics and it has not been intimidating at all. I have put in 20 years in the civil services… I’ve seen politics at work from close range… It is a pleasure to work on the ground and interact with honest, hardworking and simple Goan folk at the grassroots level… Their problems are simple, easy to resolve, but for this there has to be good intent. The common man has to be the focus of the government and not “lobbies” as has always been the case for obvious corrupt reasons.
You have maintained that allegations against you relating to the housing board scam are political vendetta, and that you joined as MD two months after conversion of land took place. Can you explain?
Observe the timing… The FIR was registered days after I put in my papers for VRS and the media had already started speculating that I would plunge into politics by joining AAP. Usually there has to be a cognisable offence and a preliminary inquiry for an FIR but in this case, merely on the basis of a complaint the FIR was filed. I challenged in the high court… The court has ruled that “no coercive action can be taken against Elvis Gomes” in the case… I couldn’t have dreamt that some issue dealt with by the board of directors two months prior to my joining needed to be examined by the MD. In my tenure, I myself have flagged at least three cases of massive corruption, one of which resulted in an FIR in the ACB. Why are these not acted upon and talked about and all focus only on this manufactured case?
Most AAP candidates are first-timers. How are they faring?
The people of Goa are fed up with the same corrupt politicians looting Goa, in turns every five years, for the last couple of decades and in the case of a couple of politicians, for up to three and four decades. Being young and first-timers with no political baggage is therefore a huge advantage for all of our candidates. All of us are working really hard, going door to door… We have covered nearly 95 per cent of the homes in almost every constituency. These direct interactions are giving us the confidence that all our candidates are on a strong footing and on track to win.
Isn’t North Goa a bigger challenge?
It is false and cavalier to say that AAP is strong only in South Goa. It is politically motivated propaganda being spread by opponents. The wave has reached every corner of Goa as was witnessed in the huge turnouts at all four rallies addressed by Arvind Kejriwal in North and South Goa on January 7 and 8.
If you do become CM, what will your top three priorities be?
To limit this list to three would be trivialising the complex problems Goa is facing… We will ensure our land is protected from sharks. The Communidade system will be respected. Healthcare needs an urgent overhaul. The AAP government will set up 400 Vaddo clinics for free consultation, medicines and testing — on the lines of mohalla clinics in Delhi. We will revive farming and move towards ending dependence on neighbouring states for fruits and vegetables. It is a shame that Goan-origin athletes represent other Indian states and other countries. AAP will double Goa’s sport budget… Goa’s brain and talent drain will be stopped, over 50,000 new jobs will be created over the next five years.
There is a perception that AAP is an import from Delhi, with Kejriwal being its main face. What is your local organisation like?
For the last decade Goa has been ruled by BJP and Congress, both of which are Delhi-headquartered parties. AAP is the fastest growing party of the country and Kejriwal is [its] national face… Our national and local leadership complement each other and we are working as a team to build a bright future for our beloved state. Kejriwal is one of the important reference books… Though it might have been the perception in the initial stages, AAP is now completely local. Some constituencies such as mine do not have a single volunteer from outside. But yes, some constituencies where we caught on a little late, that were Marathi or Kannada speaking ones, we did have a few volunteers from outside but there is nothing wrong in that.