03 Mar 2018  |   06:03am IST

No more Migrants, just call them Goans

With 35 percent of the state’s population consisting of migrants the dynamics of the political game have changed with politicians pandering to their every whim to either win or retain their seats. SHWETA KAMAT spoke to all the players to understand the reality on the ground
No more Migrants, just call them Goans

SHWETA KAMAT

It is estimated that over 35 percent of Goa’s population today constitutes migrants. Oops!!! You cannot call them migrants any more. Thanks to our politicians who have converted these communities into their vote banks two-three decades back. They now want the people to look at these immigrants as Goans. And why not? They possess a valid voter identity card, Aadhar card, ration card and even residence certificate. What else does one need???

Undoubtedly! All this is with the blessings of political leaders. And there is a reason for that. Migrants play the role of decision maker in almost every state assembly constituency. Migrants can decide the fate of candidates in nine assembly constituencies-Cortalim, Mormugao, Vasco, Dabolim, Margao, Ponda, Mapusa, St Cruz and Calangute. It must be stated that candidates cannot ignore their presence in the other 31 constituencies also. 

From Pernem to Canacona, there are roughly four to five lakh migrants which comprises 3.20 lakhs to four lakh voters. The largest numbers of migrant voters in Goa are Kannadigas followed by Maharashtrians, Rajasthanis, Biharis, migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Tamilians and Andhraites. But off late, states like Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Odisha, Punjab and West Bengal are the additions in the list of states providing migrants to Goa.

The population in every constituency varies between 13,000 to 3,000 in areas like  Sancoale, Zaurinagar, Upasnagar, Camrabhat, Indiranagar, Chimble, Fukat Nagar, Moti-dongor and Baina.

As per the latest electoral roll, the total voters population stands at 11,19,777, which includes 5,49,893 males and 5,69,884 female voters. Considering four lakh migrant voters, their contribution comes to nearly 36 percent, which definitely can ‘make’ or ‘destroy’ a political dream. 

 “Goa is virtually standing on the brink of "ethnic dilution" as unrestricted migration from other states is threatening to reduce the native population to an "alienated microscopic minority" by 2021,” the State Government had said through a special assessment in 2013. 

“Unrestricted migration and whole-scale transfer of land is beginning to submerge the unique Goan identity. Though we have been noticing this trend in the last decade or so, it has now assumed menacing proportions. The apprehension is that by 2021 the migrant population will outnumber local Goans”. This apprehension was expressed by an all-party delegation, led by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar (in 2013), which met then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding Special Status for Goa. 

The demand fall flat as the year’s passed by, with more and more migrants making Goa their home. The coastal state also has a large chunk of floating cum seasonal migrant population which is around two lakhs.

 Akil Goa Kannada Mahasangh (AGKM) President, Siddanna Meti told HERALD that as many as 17 different associations of migrant communities are operational in Goa and all are equally contributing in the development of the State. 

“All these migrant communities are also playing a crucial role in deciding the political future of the leaders as well as parties in the respective constituencies and collective for the State,” Meti said. 

He further brings to light how politicians use these communities at the time of election. They are appeased with cash, goodies, food and drink in order to get their votes. “You go to any constituency and talk to people; they will admit that they take money from candidates to vote. They will even admit, how politicians have helped them to get voter ID or ration card, etc,” Meti stated. 

“Just the way we are dependent on the State for our livelihood…survival, the politicians are also dependents on us for their political prospects,” the leader admits proudly. 

How can we forget, during the last assembly elections in February 2017, Ponda MLA Ravi Naik, had in fact released his election manifesto in Kannada. Not just this, both BJP and Congress had invited leaders from Karnataka to please the voters. 

Migrants have become a significant contender in Goa’s socio-economic scenario. Election after election, political leaders have used the migrant vote to get elected. Migrant vote banks are wooed and even cultivated by devious politicians. Whoever controls these vote banks calls the shots. 

Just as Goans move out to various other places, others find their solace in Goa. Goa has been the target area for migration even before the Portuguese era. The scenic natural beauty, tourism, work and education opportunities, and liberal crisis-free ambience make this place highly attractive for many people who choose to move here.

“We cannot blame migrants for coming to Goa or settling down here for decades. It is a common phenomenon. It is basically migration of profession for better prospects.  Just the way Goan’s prefer to go to UK or London for living, they too look at Goa for better living,” Deputy Speaker and Calangute MLA Michael Lobo said. 

At the same time, Lobo admits that today, one cannot fool migrants by way of appeasement politics as these communities are now well versed with Goa’s political scenario. “First of all, we cannot call them as migrants as they are situated here for more than 20-35 years now. At least in my constituency, I don’t see them as migrants as they have all valid identity proofs, they have their business here, their children are going to schools, colleges here,” he said. 

“They have a voting right and today these people vote for only those candidates who work for their betterment. They are no more dependent on your election goodies and hence, we cannot consider them as vote bank of any particular candidate or party,” the BJP MLA stated. 

Lobo, who was in news for his recent statement of granting Schedule Caste status to Lamani community, states that it is the collective responsibility of people of Goa and the politicians that migrants today are settled here. “We have given our land to them to construct houses or to set up business. We have given them jobs, employment, earning, when they first came to us. We did not object that time,” he said. 

The constituency, dominated by BJP in the last two election, has around 8,000-9,000 migrant voters population. 

While initially, migrant vote banks were concentrated in Chimbel, Vasco, Zuari nagar in Cortalim, Moti Dongor in Margao, and Fukat Nagar in Mapusa, 2017 assembly election saw the migrant vote bank spread across all constituencies in Goa, and are not restricted to pockets any more.

Former MLA Atanasio Monserrate, who ruled constituencies like Taleigao and St Cruz- known as hubs of migrants in Tiswadi taluka, does not see them as migrants. “I see these people as my voters and not as migrants. Being my voters, whether I am MLA or not, it automatically becomes my duty to protect their interest and livelihood. If one look at this as vote bank politics, then I have nothing to say,” he stated. 

His close aid but political rival Congress St Cruz MLA Tony Fernandes also shares similar view. “I don’t consider any particular community as vote bank. They all are voters of St Cruz and hence, it becomes responsibility of me as MLA to work for everyone’s betterment,” he stated. 

Of the total nine assembly constituency that has the largest share of migrant voters, majority that is six are dominated by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party- Cortalim, Mormugao, Vasco, Dabolim, Mapusa and Calangute, while only three belongs to Congress – Margao, Ponda and St Cruz. 

“BJP never believed in vote bank politics. Every community is a vote bank in that sense. Our every MLA ensures that every voter in his or her constituency is treated equal. One cannot just depend on one particular community for their political victory,” BJP President and Rajya Sabah MP Vinay Tendulkar reacted. 

Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar too believes that one cannot sustain in politics if the focus is on particular community. “Migrants is one community, which has a sizeable population in every constituency. They are in fact voters, but one cannot appease them with goodies or money anymore. They are smart now and knows what can work in their favour,” he commented.

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