Goa Assembly Election 2017: AAP's Elvis Gomes is in for a tough but not impossible fight

Arvind Kejriwal, the Aam Aadmi Party (APP) supremo and incumbent Delhi chief minister, would not be what he is if did not indulge in theatrics. A modest crowd that had gathered at a ground near the Cuncolim bus stand in South Goa on Monday, were hardly amused when Kejriwal anointed AAP’s Goa state unit convenor Elvis Gomes as his party’s chief ministerial face for the upcoming state legislative assembly elections midway through his public rally.

The real theatrics lied in selection of the venue and date of Kejriwal’s second Goa rally after his May rally in North Goa. It was one incident that took place on another Monday some 433 years back that etched Cuncolim’s name in golden letters of Goa’s history when 73 years after Portugal had colonised Goa in the early years of the 16th century, a revolt took place and local villagers killed 20 persons on 25 July, 1,583, including five priests in protest against destruction of Hindu temple and their forced conversion to Christianity. It was later to be termed as Goa’s first war of independence, though the actual liberation had to wait for another 378 years when Indian armed forces set foot on Goa and made the Portuguese surrender on December 19, 1961.

Team Kejriwal thus zeroed down on Cuncolim for their supremo Kejriwal to kickstart AAP’s herculean task of coming to power in the upcoming elections on the day Goa was celebrating 55 years of its liberation. His clarion call, expectedly, was to liberate Goa now from the alleged corruption perpetuated over the years by the national arch-rivals Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress party. Ironically, Kejriwal named Gomes, a fellow bureaucrat-turned-politician, as the AAP torchbearer, though Gomes himself is embroiled in a corruption allegation when he served in the past as Director of Tourism in a land scam.

 Goa Assembly Election 2017: AAPs Elvis Gomes is in for a tough but not impossible fight

File image of Elvis Gomes

Kejriwal, however, would have none of it in his single-minded pursuit of replacing Narendra Modi as the Indian prime minister when the next general elections are held in another two and a half years. Unseating BJP from power in Goa is an integral part of Kejriwal-led AAP’s national dreams that came a cropper in 2014.

Kejriwal, a political greenhorn in 2014 Delhi elections, had then decided to take huge risk of his life by contesting against the incumbent Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit in her New Delhi assembly constituency and emerged successful. Unlike Kejriwal, Gomes has not been pitched against the Goa chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar from his Mandrem constituency. Gomes is seeking to enter the Goa legislative assembly from his home constituency Cuncolim where he was born and brought up and is expected to lock horns with BJP’s sitting state lawmaker Subhash alias Rajan Naik.

Gomes, 53, may or may not come out of the land corruption taint in his otherwise impeccable record as a Goa bureaucrat who opted for voluntary retirement in July this year after an FIR was filed against him and the former Goa tourism minister Nilikant Halarnkar. It, however, did not prevent him from declaring that one of his first acts as the Goa chief minister would be to construct the unfinished wing of newly constructed Colvale prison so that the corrupt Goa politicians belonging to the BJP and the Congress party are jailed there.

Gomes was serving as Inspector General of Prisons with additional charge of Urban Development Secretary when he quit as a bureaucrat even while he was in line for promotion as an IAS and joined AAP shortly thereafter.

A Goa civil services officer, Gomes has served Goa in various posts and capacities. He is generally admired for his upright approach including his role in promoting responsible and clean tourism and ensuring jobs for locals in the tourism industry.

It may appear that despite sharing a common bureaucrat-turned-politician background, Kejriwal and Gomes need each other. Bereft of any reliable name and a crowd-puller, Kejriwal needed to piggy ride Gomes’ popularity to power in Goa while Gomes in return needed a platform to nurture his political ambitions that he had successfully kept under wraps until he joined AAP on 5 October this year.

Their mutual roles were already fixed. While Kejriwal went hammer and tongs after Modi – attacking him over the recent demonetisation and yet unsubstantiated allegation of Modi receiving bribe in the past as the Gujarat chief minister. Gomes on his part trained his guns on the Goa BJP and Congress party leaderships.

Gomes, in his address, reminded people of various scams that Goa has witnessed and said that BJP came to power in the state promising corruption-free governance. He criticised BJP turning a blind eye on corruption and adding more to the existing list of scams in Goa, in almost screeching voice matching that of Kejriwal.

Since AAP cannot be separated from corruption, the focal point of Monday rally was corruption. AAP was born out of anti-corruption nation-wide movement of social reformist Anna Hazare, rode to power in Delhi with astounding victory by winning 67 out of 70 seats on offer and itself is now facing charges of getting involved in corruption charges.

Kejriwal was accompanied by all 33 AAP nominees for Goa polls, expected to be held in February-March next year and announced that all of them were free from corruption charges, as he had done even before Delhi polls, though by now many of his party lawmakers are either lodged in prison or facing police cases.

He further announced in his trademark dramatic style that AAP would pull out of the contest from any particular constituency if any of the AAP nominees are proven corrupt even at the eleventh hour. He, however, did not explain why and when AAP would name its candidates for the remaining seven constituencies. Speculations are rife that AAP is unable to zero down on suitable candidates and may nominate political turncoats who have joined the party in the run-up to the state polls. Manny of them enjoy a far from clean image.

For Gomes, the fight has just started. Kejriwal has given him the AAP baton in Goa by making an exception and officially naming him its chief ministerial face, unlike in other poll-bound states like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. Gomes has to fight against odds like lack of funds and workers, ignite dreams of corruption-free administration and deliver Goa on a platter to Kejriwal while fighting his own corruption taint and ensuring his own victory. By all considerations, it may sound tough, if not an impossible call for him.

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Updated Date: Jan 22, 2017 17:28:06 IST