The turbulence in Goa’s socio-political landscape over the Mopa-Dabolim issue isn’t getting any clearer with the government firm in its decision to make Mopa a possibility.
As much as there’s turbulence, there’s also an enveloping fog over the case for Mopa. With Manohar Parrikar flapping his wide wings as he flies in one direction towards Mopa, he’s leaving behind a legacy of obstinacy and adroitness. Parrikar’s new route of finding a solution to the problem by having another feasibility study on the viability of a second airport may be a two-pronged strategy ~ to reinforce his own belief and to buy time. He has to prove absolutism.
The report by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (2007) may, at least on paper, seem a bit outdated with changes in traffic at Dabolim airport. It’s obvious that the government doesn’t believe those who have shown with facts and figures that Dabolim, especially with its new development, can sustain the predicted rise in tourist traffic and cargo, and that the land with the Navy can be negotiated for increasing the technical aspects of the airport to meet future increase in air traffic and to accommodate wide-bodied aircraft.
But Parrikar being Parrikar, finds it difficult to descend from his lofty flight. It’s an unenviable task for those at the forefront of the struggle to convince him to forget Mopa. He may believe that Fr Eremito Rebello’s movement is flying on a wing and a prayer and would run out of steam. But as things stand today, ‘Goans for Dabolim Only’ is solidifying its stand and making inroads into the hearts and minds of the people, the engine that keeps the movement moving on its path of peaceful agitation. It’s now in the people’s hands to cut short Parrikar’s flight of fancy over Mopa.
The invisible hand of the late Matanhy Saldanha seems to be guiding Fr Eremito and his faithful followers in their avowed mission to bring the Goa government, particularly its die-hard believer in himself, Manohar Parrikar, to its senses on the futility of having a second airport at Mopa. No doubt, Fr Eremito has Matanhy’s widow, Alina, as a resourceful member and eyes and ears of the government.
Fr Eremito has perhaps taken a cue from the Pilar fathers who joined Matanhy in the fishermen’s fight. It’s debatable whether priests should be directly involved in spearheading a social movement for whatever cause or should they remain in the background providing spiritual guidance and maybe some advice on strategy. In their proactive role in public agitations, priests invite either praise or ridicule. The roles also bring the Church into focus. In fact, the Church has been seen as a latent supporter of the BJP and the relationship between the chief minister and the Church authorities have been seen as cordial if not cosy. The government and the Church would do each other a favour if the two keep a good distance between them. Remember, there’s a devil in the details.
Alina’s studied silence, instead of taking the stage at meets, can be construed as a lesson in diplomacy. As a minister in the government that’s hell-bent on making Mopa a reality, Alina has shown calmness under duress. Her countering Parrikar that Matanhy never supported Mopa probably came as a rude shock to the man who made it possible for Matanhy to win in Cortalim first and then shrewdly outwitted and outmaneuvered Alina’s rivals to help her win without contest after the seat that fell vacant because of Matanhy’s untimely death. It was a master-stroke.
Even if Alina wasn’t restrained by her official position to fully dive into the anti-Mopa movement, it’s unlikely she would have brought the same vitality and verve that Mathany brought to the agitations he was involved in. Just as Matanhy, as cabinet minister, was circumspect in Parrikar’s earlier innings as chief minister, Alina seems to be in a similar situation. But if she shows a little more political aggressiveness and shrewdness, Alina could bring other south MLAs into her comfort zone and wage an ideological war within the government on behalf of ‘Goans for Dabolim Only’.
In creating stiff opposition to Parrikar’s grand design on Mopa, it would need tactical moves on the part of the South Goa MLAs who support Fr Eremito and his merry band of anti-Mopaists. Unfortunately, they can’t gang up on their master who has provided two of them with ministerial berths and helping another fight his foreign citizenship flap. Vijay Sardesai is a lone ranger with a gun that’s firing on all cylinders.
None of these MLAs will find it easy to escape Parrikar’s trap. As of now, they seem content to be Parrikar’s caged parrots. Those who have publicly voiced their support to the anti-Mopa group should also raise the pitch of their voices in the BJP caucus. At the same time, the South Goa MLAs could give the anti-Mopa movement a much-needed boost if they bring onboard other BJP MLAs. A solid chorus line of BJP MLAs singing the same tune of keeping Dabolim as the sole airport for the State may get Parrikar attuned to the idea.
Even as the Mopa issue was hanging fire, and the public was getting warmed up to the anti-Mopa chant, the sudden revival of the special status ghost seems to have come as a diversionary factor. That Goans are hard to mobilize politically over an issue unless it strikes a chord deep in their hearts, is a known fact. The opinion poll and the recognition of Konkani as official language were key issues that galvanized people. Both the Mopa and special status hang-ups haven’t churned the people’s sentiments as did the opinion poll, and the recognition for Konkani language. Mopa is more of an economic issue than a political one. The Mopa case has the propensity to create a North v/s South divide that was evident during the opinion poll but so far it hasn’t reached that proportion. The acquisition of land in and around Mopa and other inherent problems associated with the Mopa project has kept the people in the North in suspended animation.
In sharp contrast, the South is ebullient in defending what they consider as their prerogative of having Dabolim as the gateway to jobs in the tourism industry. The South is anchored to Dabolim and if the planes fly to Mopa, the South will be left adrift in a sea of uncertainty, and in economic drought. Much is riding on Dabolim for the southerners. It’s a hub where their hopes largely lie. Dabolim is ingrained in the Goan soul from Portuguese days and it carries the symbolism of a Goan past and present. The people from this part of Goa wouldn’t want to sacrifice it for anything else. With or without the Navy, Dabolim remains the first and last bastion of Goa’s glory.