The historical constituency of Velim which produced revolutionary leaders like Juliao Menezes a close associate of Socialist leader Dr Ram Manohar Lohia is set for a multi-party ballot battle in 2017. The Constituency which was earlier ruled by leaders like Farrel Furtado and Filip Neri Rodrigues, this time the fight is tentatively between, BJP, Congress, Goa Forward, AAP and Independent candidates. Goa Suraksha Manch has also jumped into the race.
The multi-pronged party approach will certainly bewilder the voter. Will Benjamin Silva break the jinx? Will the people help the former MLA avenge his defeat? Will Velim voters go the Aam Admi Party way to support Cruz Silva? The permutation/combination will make it difficult for the voters to select their representative. The Goa Forward candidate and businessman-turned politician and Former ZP and Babush alias Anthony Rodrigues who created a lot of wind in Velim is lost is waiting to see the outcome of the meeting of the Central Election Committee of the Congress which will decide on whether the Congress is going it alone, or entering into an alliance compromise.
Even the Goa Suraksha Manch has jumped into the race. The verdict of the people will be answered only after the EVMs are decoded. However, the BIG Q is who is really closest to addressing the basic issues of Velim.
Voters from Ambelim, Velim, Assolna, Chinchinim, Sarzora, St Jose de Areal, Sirlim Dharmapur and Dicarpali villages of Velim Constituency have common problems like electricity, water supply, health facilities and issues with the Regional Plan 2021. Most of the Gramsabhas of these areas are biesieged with the old and unfulfilled issues.
This is a Catholic-dominated Constituency and caste will play a major role. There is a sizeable number of Scheduled Tribe voters. Besides these, there are voters from the fishing community, toddy tappers, OBC and Kshatriya.
Power outage is a huge issue here. The issue rocked several Gramsabhas but there's no solution in sight.
Chinchinim, Sarzora and Dramapur are the worst sufferers. The Gramsabhas had several rounds of discussions and had resolved to have a sub-station in the middle of Sirlim and Velim which will serve all villages and Velim as a whole. However, the same couldn't take off.
The Constituency also needs Primary Health Centres badly. The present health centre at Chinchinim has to cater to all the villages and as usual does not have any facilities thus putting the entire load on the Hospicio hospital and the urban health centre in Margao. Several people in the past have died of snake bites due to lack of anti-venom. The need for a "healthy" PHC will be a major issue this election.
Lack of water, especially during the summers is another "scorching" issue of the constituency. The high altitude areas in Velim and Ambelim in Salcete taluka are the worst-hit. All the stakeholders have been insisting that the problem will be solved soon but nothing has changed their lives till date.
The most important issue which will rule the minds of voters is the issue of Regional Plan 2021 particularly because of the Major District Road (MDR). This road (proposed) will plough through several residences in the areas and as per the Gramsabha discussions, will destroy the identity and the environmental sanctity of the village. There has been stiff "roadblock" to the proposed road!
The issue of the Betul Port which is dormant now is also back with the poll winds. It might have an influence on the voting pattern.
The most critical of all will be the Velim Church assault case which has taken many twists and turns in the last five years. The case has travelled from the police station to lower court and now the higher court. After the Department Of Prosecution "produced" a letter to the court against removal of certain critical sections from the case, the case turned murkier.
All the candidates, including the sitting MLA Benjamin, have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Benjamin Silva and his support to the BJP in the last term can turn out to be a disadvastage for him especially if he vouches on the Rs 200 crore development work. Velim panchayats also seem to be having certain differences with the sitting MLA. Benjamin goes on to say, "Despite the financial crunch, with all my enthusiasm, zeal and hard work, I managed to tender and complete development work amounting to over Rs 200 Crores." He also harped on his contribution to the entire state by being on the Khadi Village Industries' Board.
Former MLA & minister Philip Neri Rodrigues claims to have a solid foundation in Velim and had quoted the highest lead in Goa for Congress of 8,000 plus votes from Velim (not clear..when??) Rodrigues said "This is the time for the Congress cadre to stay united and work for a win here," he said. Philip has also revealed that he will work for human resources development of Velim.
Cruz Silva, an engineer by profession, was once a sarpanch of Ambelim but will he able to woo voters is the big question. AAP's charisma has not reached the backward and tribal voters. AAP's name can be heard only in the main parts of the villages. AAP has to slog a lot if they have to prove their coin. Cruz said, "We will soon launch an independent manifesto like a 20 to30-bedded hospital, pollution-free St Jose De Areal Industrial estate, Dicarpale to be bifurcated from Davorlim, sanitation at Cutbona and other areas, road engineering among others," he said.
Issues like a mini-harbour at Cutbona, the government's failure in handling the Velim Church case properly, the fisherman's issues, development works, Chinchinim market project issue and other issues will play major role in this election.