BJP still hopeful demand would be met but experts feel it has many ramifications and impractical as other states too demand the same
PANJIM: The campaign for the Lok Sabha elections is in full flow with candidates and parties making several promises. However, one issue that has been left practically untouched is special status, which Goans have been demanding for long.
Various groups have been demanding special status for the State, which has been facing challenges from in-migration, scarce land resource and a resultant dilution of its identity.
The current Lok Sabha elections are being fought on the issues of unemployment, U-turn of State and Central governments, mining, coal transportation and development.
In 2014, BJP’s then PM candidate Narendra Modi had promised Special Status to Goa but even after getting elected the promise has not been fulfilled. “This special status is not for financial purposes, but the State wants to protect its identity and culture. I would be proud to fulfil this demand,” Modi had said at a rally in Goa.
Notably, the BJP had in its 2012 election manifesto also promised special status to the State. But come 2019, the issue has been put on the backburner as no party or candidate is discussing it.
Former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar says that special status cannot be granted to Goa. “Special status cannot be given to Goa as the State tops in all the fronts. Special status is given to those states which have remained backwards,” he said.
Though Parsekar says the demand cannot be met, just a couple of months ago a BJP national leader again promised special status to Goa. “We are accepting all suggestions. The BJP is willing to include special status (demand) for Goa as part of its election manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls. We will implement the demand,” BJP national vice president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe said in February.
Congress too non-committal
Former Union Law Minister Ramakant Khalap says the issue of special status is not being discussed as there are a lot of ramifications. “PM Modi went hammer and tongs on the issue as he promised special status to Goa but it still remains a promise after five years,” Khalap said.
He said the Centre had backtracked as even other states like Bihar, Kerala, Andhra had made similar demands. “Congress also has promised special status for a long time, but in which way they have not elaborated,” he said adding, “Like the BJP is now saying they have given status in the form of financial package to the State”.
Asked whether the special status demand is practical, he replied, “Under current circumstances no. The Centre must therefore give a proper financial package for development of the State.”
Congress has, however, in its manifesto promised a law to protect and preserve the land and identity of Goa.
Sawaikar says Special Status still possible
Asserting that Modi has not skirted the issue of special status for Goans during his visit to the State, South Goa MP Narendra Sawaikar said a BJP government would fulfil the dream of Goans within the next five years.
“No, I do not agree that the Prime Minister has deliberately avoided making a mention of special status for Goa during his visit. The Prime Minister has been clear that he would support the demands of Goans. This includes special status,” Sawaikar said during an interaction with the media on Tuesday.
Sawaikar, however, said it would take some time to complete the process as it requires an amendment to Article 371 of the Constitution. “The Amendment will have to be supported by half the number of State Legislative Assemblies. It involves a process and one should bear in mind that special status cannot be conferred via a notification, but only through an amendment to the Constitution,” he said.
To another question, he said BJP would take up the issue with the Centre based on the resolution adopted by the Goa Legislative Assembly. Asked whether BJP would set a deadline to achieve the demand, Sawaikar said the party has five years to take a call.
Goencho Avaaz disappointed with AAP
Stating that on their request the Congress had included the special status issue in their manifesto, Goencho Avaaz has said it is disappointed with Aam Aadmi Party.
“We met Rahul Gandhi and he immediately asked Girish Chodankar to include it in their manifesto. But AAP has been disappointing,” Goencho Avaaz co-convenor Capt Viriato Fernandes told Herald.
He said AAP cancelled the Goencho Avaaz appointment with their national president Arvind Kejriwal on the issue. “On April 13 we were supposed to meet Kejriwal but after AAP came to know our demands they refused the appointment,” he said.
Fernandes said Goa does not want a financial package, it needs protection of its land and identity, and sadly no party (except Congress) is ready to discuss and grant it.