Panaji: Unwittingly it may have seemed at first, but Goa’s Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Ramesh Tawadkar’s comments about setting up treatment camps for LGBT youth earlier this week, may have betrayed just how perilously, Goa, a relatively liberal state with its unique Luso-Goan heritage, is being hitched to the Hindu fringe bandwagon and hauled to the Right.
Tawadkar, a two-time Bharatiya Janata Party legislator from Canacona, Goa’s southernmost constituency doesn’t belong to the over-the-top belligerent breed of conservative politicians that Goa’s contemporary political ecosystem has been throwing up with regular frequency of late. The nondescript Tawadkar was not one of those raucous ministerial voices, which last year demanded a ban on bikinis and ‘open culture’ on Goa’s beaches and streets or called India a ‘Hindu Nation’ or backed Sri Rama Sene founder Pramod Muthalik to set up shop in Goa.
Neither did he join the political chorus which called Nigerians a ‘cancer’ and wild animals, like his cabinet colleague Art and Culture minister Dayanand Mandrekar did, after a flare up between a Nigerian drug gang and a local mafia. Mandrekar was subsequently forced to apologise following furore over his remarks.
In fact, Tawadkar, a physical education teacher by profession, has had fewer brushes with controversy than most of his other cabinet colleagues. His first brush with controversy came a couple of years ago, when he became the first and only cabinet minister in the Manohar Parrikar cabinet to be chargesheeted by the Central Bureau of Investigation in a rioting case filed after an agitation by a collective of indigenous Goans tribes.
Tawadkar also narrowly missed being pulled into yet another controversy last year after Goa’s biggest tragedy (in terms of fatalities) in form of the collapse of Ruby Residency in Tawadkar’s constituency, which killed over 30 persons.
The Opposition alleged that the weak structure had been built despite lack of permissions and with political support and that the police should probe Tawadkar, who also had an apartment in the complex. Tawadkar in his defence claimed he had brought the flat at a commercial price and that the allegations were unfounded. Thirdly, Tawadkar was initially a part of the ruling MLA/ministers' junket to Brazil during the FIFA world cup, although the minister dropped out of the trip following national outrage over the splurge of public funds.
But with his LGBT comments Tawadkar finally appears to have managed to come into his own.
Tawadkar’s apparent belief in the treatment LGBT by training and administering them medicine (although Tawadkar claimed he was misquoted after initial reports about his statement on Monday, the minister subsequently repeated the same treatise on ‘treatment’ LGBT, using Baba Ramdev's yoga techniques in a telephonic interview to the New York Times) is a symptom of a slow, but steady march of the Hindu Right forces into Goa’s socio-political consciousness under the BJP-led coalition government.
“Mr. Tawadkar, the youth minister, said that Baba Ramdev’s “expertise” in yoga instruction would be used to counsel gay people and drug addicts. According to Indian news reports, Mr. Ramdev will also be involved in a government program announced last year to expand the teaching of yoga in schools in Goa,” said NYT’s New Delhi datelined news report.
And there have been other signs too about Goa’s increasingly rightward tilt. Not as sensational as the one, so sensationally hoisted by Tawadkar, but they’ve been there, in plain black and white.
Firstpost was first to report on a potential road being paved for organisations and a controversial thinktank backed by yoga guru Ramdev and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh respectively into Goa. In fact, Ramdev told the media about his potential tie-up with the Goa government for teaching yoga two months before Manohar Parrikar’s budget for 2014-15 made it evident.
The fact that Ramdev also ‘claims’ to have a cure to treat homosexuality is quite another matter, especially in light of Tawadkar’s belief of the yoga guru’s powers.
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Updated Date: Jan 16, 2015 14:22:53 IST