30 Apr 2023  |   07:08am IST

Do not take your religion to the ballot box

Men of faith shouldn’t function as political agents through their coteries
Do not take your religion  to the ballot box

Goa is at the crossroads between what it can still be, as a piece of paradise for our children and grandchildren, or descend into the abyss of greed, corruption, inefficiency and destruction.

There are tears being shed, but they are not wiped by those hands that are stretched out to ask for votes.

Goans sleep at night in pain asking what has happened to their 

beloved Goa

Is this the Goa we want? Can any Goan be comfortable when the first thought that comes to the minds of people outside when they think of Goa, is not of paradise, but of corruption and greed? Of a system that bends only for the connected and the powerful. There are too many Goans who sleep with pain and ask themselves and each other- What has happened to my beloved Goa?

Does this pain even matter to those who play kingmakers and try and influence elections and voting, since they are “dealt with”? Our politics has become polarised, and greed-driven not only because of politicians but by those who influence certain kinds of politicians from coming to power.

Goans grapple with issues - of loss of land and livelihoods, the destruction of the land they love, of corruption and loss, of lack of justice. But do these issues matter all in the final choices of those we elect? And we are not speaking of specific parties or politicians. This applies to the entire system of politics per se.

In the last few months before elections, actors and players emerge on the political scene who back individuals and not any cause. Suddenly religion or caste comes into play while real issues are completely diverted. Men of faith, become political influencers. Sitting in institutions of faith they address their chosen coteries.

These men of faith representing institutions that wield a lot of influence over people’s lives have unfortunately acted as puppets 

of politicians.

The institutions themselves are one of the finest and bind society together with shared value system and deep faith. They are full of men of integrity, dedication and humility. A few black sheep put black spots on the integrity of the good shepherds and that causes pain even to these institutions.

Such black sheep speak to coteries by the day and become YouTube influencers by night

They address their coteries by day, nudging them or even directing them to turn the political narrative towards specific politicians. And by night they become social media influencers giving speeches on YouTube and writing on Facebook, clearly bringing down some politicians they hate and backing others, knowing that their own following as faith leaders can influence many to vote in a certain way. Is this fair? Is this the democracy we have earned?

It has come to such a low that before deciding on contesting an election, an aspiring candidate asks “Do you know anyone in the faithful coterie? The coteries then speak to their ‘faithful’ bosses who in turn bless a candidate and guide them in their political journey.

Can children of God do this?

To captain a constituency, you need integrity

Some men of faith put fake candidates into the system and pretend to be neutral. Don’t they know that to captain a constituency, you need people of integrity and not those who completely fit this famous saying of philosopher Samuel Johnson “Politics is the last refuge of a scoundrel?”  

To steer the ship of integrity into the people’s port, aspiring politicians should not play games, and not seek or get “institutional’ support, from social media savvy and faithful backers.

Can you go to sleep, when people think of Goa as a corrupt, massively expensive place where the rule of law is selectively in favour of the powerful and the connected? 

Shouldn’t all children of God be ashamed when fellow humans, especially children end each day uncertain of a good future with merit-based opportunities? 

This is not a one-party issue or a government issue? This is an issue of Goa’s future and that is what O Heraldo emphasises on

Come election time many white-collared “professionals” who may even wear black coats, come out of the woodwork and get hired as verbal cannons for politicians and as mouthpieces of their dirty tricks department. They are used by one politician to demolish and defame others.

Today we have elections without manifestos or hurriedly prepared cut-and-paste jobs because manifestos have been devalued so much that they are not even worth the paper they are written on. And do you know why that’s the case? Because political parties are no longer concerned that if they do not work or deliver for the people, they will not get votes. Through the period of five years, they just brazen out the absolute neglect toward the weak and favouritism for the powerful, and then work on ‘equations’ and ‘arrangements”. That is the big deal.

A Smart city project that has lined smart pockets & other people’s issues don’t find a voice

We have a destroyed, bombed by construction Smart City project in Panjim that has only lined smart pockets. 

Meanwhile, across Goa, people have to walk for long distances only to fill water and walk back. Even water tankers do not reach their homes while their dry taps get trickles of water each alternate day or more. Farmers have their barren fields covered with mining dust. With no income from farming, many have pulled their children out of school. These are the toughest lessons they will ever learn and yet there is not a single voice of support from those who come to them for votes.

But these issues don’t get time. Issues don’t get space in a politician’s calendar, unless there’s a photo opportunity and a press conference where they expect the press to dutifully cover them and not necessarily the issue at hand, putting them into the limelight and not those whose lives are impacted by government decisions. Has it come to this? Have we come to this?

What have our elected representatives done? Have they spoken for the people of Goa when it most mattered?

Did they speak a word when Goan interests were traded and a Port Authority was created as a State within a State? Did they raise their voices against the double tracking of railways which would destroy homes and the future? Did they speak once against police atrocities and harassment against innocent activists fighting for people’s causes?  They only held press conferences. Clearly, politicians who do not understand issues and have managed to win some elections by default should not speak much. People see through them.

Only one, who was out of political power and then a Rajya Sabha MP from another State, raised strong issues on behalf of Goans. Nobody wanted him. They only wanted the press conference politicians.

 The future of Goans cannot be traded and surrendered on the feet of those who use religion, caste or straight deals to shape the course of Goa’s political history. All they are interested in is to get some individual interests satisfied. This selfishness must stop. Because Goa is above all this. Goans are above all, those.

To save the future your children and theirs, let us pray for basic integrity, especially from those who are representatives of communities. Every religion teaches you to do right and be just. But there is no place for deceit and misusing religion for political gains.

For the sake of Goa, let us eradicate from public life those who misuse positions and make politics a tradeable commodity, across all parties.

Let us respectfully leave religion behind on our way to the ballot box. Inside the ballot box, just have faith- in democracy and in Goa.


Iddhar Udhar