Congress wrests initiative pointing to changes in Babush’s old constituency; BJP struggles to shrug failure of Smart City to transform Panjim
PANJIM: As Panjim’s date with another by-election approaches, the stark contrast in the development in the Taleigao and Panjim Assembly constituencies appears to be what voters are discussing.
Congress has pinned its hopes on the tried and tested former Taleigao heavyweight Atanasio Monserrate, who has transformed his former constituency into a fast-growing urban zone. BJP, on the other hand, has fielded Sidharth Kuncalienker, who as a moving voice in the Smart City initiative hasn’t seen much success, but the initiatives have led to chaotic road conditions and unnecessary eyesores in public places in the name of installations.
Monserrate, who represented Taleigao for two terms from 2002, before shifting to St Cruz in 2012, is looked upon as a doer in the development arena by voters who have seen the face of Taleigao change.
Banking on this, Congress has been projecting development as its main election plank in by-election. Taleigao’s wide and well-tarred roads, semi-urban look along with green fields, regular water and power supply, sewerage system and other amenities is being shown to the Panjim electorate.
Taleigao’s newly elected Sarpanch Agnelo Cunha said development has always been Monserrate’s focal point and hence Panjim voters need to believe when he promises to undertake various developmental works. “You see the works done by him in Taleigao. Whether he is MLA or not does not matter at all. He has always done the work. He has transformed the village into semi-urban area and one cannot ignore this,” he said.
Though Panjim is the State capital, one cannot ignore the shabby look the city wears due to the traffic chaos and dug up roads. Taleigao on the other hand wears a sleeker look, more suited to a State capital.
Panjim, represented by BJP for nearly two and a half decades under its stalwart Manohar Parrikar, remained neglected to a certain extent. The biggest example is the polluted St Inez creek, whose waters continue green, with garbage floating on the waters.
The filthy city market conditions and failure to complete the third phase of the complex is yet another failure attributed to BJP. Irregular power supply and
inadequate water to Panjimites remains a distance dream.
While the constituency was battling with these issues, the smart city mess cropped up. The Union Ministry for Urban Development sanctioned Rs 500 crore to Panjim to change its face, but since 2016, when the project was launched, nothing much has changed on ground for the city.
In fact, Panjim even looks a good deal shabbier. Several works undertaken by the Smart City team like the cycle track along Campal lane, have been left unattended. The city is losing its place in national rankings, reflecting the lack of governance.
BJP corporator Menino D’Cruz speaking to Herald said, “What is the development that you are looking at? The city is already developed and we don’t want it to be another Taleigao, which is hijacked by non-Goans and slums. We don’t want such type of development. What we want is maintenance and beautification. We don’t want Panjim to be another Taleigao. As far as smart city is concerned, one cannot accept things to happen overnight. We will have to wait.”
Kuncalienkar too finds himself in the middle of controversy surrounding the smart city, with opposition parties accusing him of multi-crore scams and no work. Congress has successfully managed to highlight the failures in the Smart City programme.
Further, what is important is the accessibility of Monserrate to the voters that has been a key element. In Panjim constituency he has opened three offices – Mala, Panjim city and Taleigao providing easy access to voters.
Kuncalienker, on the other hand, has been known to be less accessible and low on the development, which one has seen during his last term as MLA- 2015-2017.