All over the world there seems to be a frustration amongst the people to disconnect with their elected representatives. Increasingly, governments are being voted in who are extreme in their views and supposedly appealing to the large masses of rural population who are poor or illiterate or feel vulnerable because the system has bypassed them. Unfortunately their experiences are turning the tide towards electing the far right. Yet it is a challenge to get the other lot -- educated and advantaged people to come out and vote. That was not the case with Goa. The people did turn up in large numbers, are educated and aware and yet we have a situation where the elected Government does not seem to represent the people.
Thus the recently declared Goa elections is truly a disappointment. The people of Goa were quite frustrated with the BJP government and voted for a change. The people voted for Congress with 17 seats whilst the BJP only secured 13 out of a 40 member house. However, with the help of independents and the Goa Forward Party (GFP) and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), the BJP has staked claim to the Government.
Some of you may even wonder if this is really an issue. However, I would like to explain how the people of Goa lost the elections.
There were too many parties which split the local vote. The GFP before the elections, criticised the BJP government and stated their value system completely different from the BJP’s. Yet post elections they lost no time in aligning themselves with the BJP and deleting all offending posts on social media. It is rumored that a lot of money changed hands to secure the support of this party and their 3 seats.
The Congress had a leadership crisis in Goa, which is not unlike their stance at the national level. This hurt their chances badly as people were confused and many of them voted for the GFP and MGP. Despite a very high voter turnout of 84%, the Congress could not emerge as a clear leader. They need to introspect and get their act together or else they will fade forever into irrelevance.
AAP could not secure a single seat in Goa. Once again, we need to analyze why. Was it a leadership crisis or people are not impressed with Arvind Kejriwal’s performance in Delhi and the constant whining instead of governing.
Finally, it seems as though the BJP in Goa is equivalent to Manohar Parrikar. He actually resigned his post as Defence Minister of India to return as Chief Minister of Goa. Clearly, he himself either did not trust his lieutenant Mr. Parsekar or he could not manage a remote controlled government. Either ways, BJP needs to also develop their leadership ranks in Goa because we cannot only depend on one person.
Finally, despite demonetisation and the attempts to create a transparent and clean financial system, this election shows that money still continues to change hands. Apparently close to Rs 1000 crores in currency was distributed to secure votes and a majority government. Some of the MLAs from other parties like Congress, Independents and smaller parties are now supporting the BJP. Many have resigned from their own party and joined the BJP thus creating a situation where the tax payers have to re-elect their leaders.
A democracy is supposed to be for the people, by the people and of the people. It is where people vote for their leaders based on their manifesto and the leaders are only representatives of the people. However when leaders do their own thing without consulting their constituency, contrary to their manifesto, they forget who elected them and why and are not representative of the people. This is unacceptable.
At the end of the day, even if the people of Goa turned out in large numbers to vote, they lost because they could not affect a clear mandate with a strong leadership who is not morally corrupt.
So what can we do? Let us continue to be engaged in political dialogue. Just like citizens in the United States are using town hall sessions to demand accountability from their elected leaders, we should do the same too. Invite your local councilor, MLA or MP for regular discussions and demand them to “walk their talk”. Match their campaign promises with actual on the ground action and any discrepancy should be highlighted and explanations demanded. Unless we have this two-way dialogue between the people, it will never be a true democracy where our leaders believe they represent the people.
Do not take your rights for granted. Continue to seek transparency and follow up these town halls with regular letters to the elected leaders with signature campaigns and press articles. Your voice can be and will be heard but it cannot be an individual voice, it has to be a community voice. And if you are wondering what issues you can begin dialogue on, there are plenty.
Let’s start with the Regional Plan and if it really is for the benefit of Goa or just a way to grab more land for the greedy politicians. Let’s talk about sustainable tourism which will continue to list Goa as a premier destination. Let’s talk about infrastructure -- what is really needed and how it will help the economy -- rather than ambitious white elephants which will never be used. Finally let’s be transparent about corruption.
If we care about Goa, we cannot surface every 5 years and cast our vote without ensuring the environment truly represents us and our values. We owe it to the next generation of Goans.
(The author is Managing Director of Aviation Travel & Tourism Services - ATTS)