Old warhorses and green horn aspirants vie for a constituency where most are at sea and others elsewhere
The Velim Constituency is made up of three parts. As Margao city ends and so also the urbanised Village of Navelim, The constituency begins with Chinchinim, Dramapur and Sarzora, known for its large population of sea farers and across the River Sal lies the villages of Assolna and Velim, well known for its Liberation struggle history and many freedom fighters, while the third side of the constituency are parts of Sao Jose de Areal and Dicarpale. All have their own kind of issues.
“There’s hardly anybody in Assolna and Velim. Old houses are closed and lie in ruins. People have got their Portuguese passports and moved on or people have migrated to the cities while the men are seafarers. These villages are neglected, deserted and have seen no new infrastructure for many years,” explains Ivor D’Souza from Assolna, who tells us how the villages of Velim and Assolna, lack basic facility and late evening bus connectivity.
But the constituency is better off with the Cavelossim Bridge and connectivity to that side, it opens up the tourist belt and the starred hotels and the options for the youth for employment without them being at the mercy of the ferry boat. But all that happened between 2007 and 2012.
NO STREET LIGHTS, DAMAGED STREET POLES
“The constituency on the Sarzora side had a huge issue of street lights and darkness. Also the light poles are old and just six feet tall and were damaged by the palm trees. After so many years of follow-up finally the sitting MLA has managed to get us an approval to replace them, we hope this will be implemented,” stated Jacinto Fernandes.
Benjamin Silva, the sitting Velim MLA was the third MLA of the constituency since 1989 to be elected as an independent otherwise the constituency is mostly a Congress bastion but has never explored the BJP. The constituency saw the defeat of the then 3-time Congress MLA Filipe Neri Rodrigues after the CID allegedly raided the Velim Church twice and an irate mob attacked the cops which became a poll issue that saw his defeat.
Neri is back in the fray and has begun his door to door campaigning. The three-time MLA has had a colourful journey from the Congress as a confidante of the now Congress president Luizinho Faleiro to resigning and contesting as an independent to join Parrikar’s government in 2002 and then returning to the Congress fold after the BJP forged his signature and alleged he joined their party and flung him out of the Goa Legislative Assembly and then he returned to the Congress to become Forest Minister until he tasted defeat at the hands of Benjamin, who in his second bid as independent became MLA with the BJP’s support.
But now the players have increased and the ring is bigger. Neri’s close aide has fallen out with him and the two-time former Velim ZP member Anthony Babush Rodrigues, known for his Jolly buses that ply to Mumbai is now another contender on the Goa Forward Ticket. Anthony is known for his free sits and free parcels to and fro to Mumbai, a city close to all sea farer families.
“I never stayed away from politics and social work despite my defeat and I am sure I will come back to power and also my responsibility to win is bigger as the Congress Vice-President, stated Filipe Neri. While Anthony asserted that he wants to contest on the GFP ticket and he says the village is least interested in oldies and former MLAs.
“I have performed and addressed electricity issues, water shortage, better telecom connectivity, widened roads and raised many issues in the village and I should win cleanly,” stated Benjamin Silva, while Aam Admi party leader Cruz Silva is contesting on a clean politic plank while he accuses BJP and Congress leaders indulging in corruption at the panchayat level.
Better road connectivity, accident free roads, a hospital or health centre in the villages, continuous electricity supply, new roads are the needs of the people and all four go to polls. Will Benjamin is able to woo people by his works done in a second term, will Neri make a comeback or will the Goa Forward or Aam Admi Party also be an option? Only the approaching polls will have answers to this but fulfilling promises of the people needs to be a norm in the coming election.