The former chief minister of Goa, SHASHIKALA KAKODKAR, who passed away earlier this week, had the unique distinction of being the first woman to head administration of Goa, when it was a union territory linked with Daman and Diu. Tai, as she was fondly addressed, had spoken to NT NETWORK about her illustrious father and the first chief minister of Goa, Bhausaheb alias Dayanand Bandodkar, during his birth centenary year, few years ago. We reprint the interview
RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR
Q: How would you evaluate Dayanand Bandodkar – Bhau to countless Goans – as a father, a politician, and a person?
Bhau was never a politician by choice, but the situation that prevailed during the post-Liberation period, including unanimous decision of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party leaders, forced him to head the state administration. Even though Bhau was not a Statesman, he stood by his decisions and ensured that they were implemented in true spirit, for the benefit of the masses.
Two of his radical decisions were opening Marathi medium schools in nook and corner of Goa, and bringing land reforms in the region. Bhau was totally unimpressed with the British system of education, which was adopted by the Independent India, and was of the opinion that basic education in Marathi and Konkani as well as Urdu languages, if the students existed, would not only link the children to their culture and tradition but also build their national character.
Q: Bhau was also known as the
‘Champion of the down trodden’…
My father was well aware of the feudal system prevalent in Goa and felt that the poor and downtrodden people, both Hindus and Christians, should be exposed to education as its absence led to illiteracy, and illiteracy went in to breed poverty. Bhau was of the firm opinion that any amount of money as well as strong will to do something good for the benefit of society were just not enough, and a person with such intentions needed to have power at his disposal. He used power just for that purpose.
Q: What were the major contributions of Bhau towards newly liberated Goa?
Bhau was a visionary, who envisaged Goa University and started post-graduation centre; thought of Kala Academy Complex and built a Kala Academy theatre in the heart of the city; chalked out industrial future for Goa and developed industrial estates as well as invited large industries like MRF, Ciba-Geigy, and Zuari Agro Chemicals to the region; and undertook vigorous infrastructure developments for the Union Territory. In fact, it goes to the credit of Bhau that all big industries placed their faith in him and opened their units in Goa.
Q: Bhau is also known for forcing ‘Opinion Poll’ on Goa…
Many versions with regards to Opinion Poll are in existence, but people hardly know the reality behind Bhau’s support for merger of Goa in Maharashtra. Bhau genuinely believed in merger but once the pubic verdict went against it, he accepted the same gracefully and tried to detach himself from politics. However, so great was his influence on the Goan people that he was elected to power immediately after the Opinion Poll, thus reaffirming their trust in him.
Q: Were you really groomed to be his political successor, the way Pandit Nehru did for Indira Gandhi?
My father never wanted me to join politics! However, he wanted me to be very much aware of the world of politics and provided me with lot of books pertaining to great leaders around the world. I also helped Bhau in receiving towering personalities from various fields, at our residence. In fact, my mother, a traditional Hindu lady, rarely came out to receive the official guests, but I remember a close associate of Lord Mountbatten writing to my father that he was overwhelmed with the welcome accorded to him by Bhau and my mother, during his visit to our house.
I had been keenly participating in the election campaigns of the MGP and during the 1967 assembly polls, the MGP supporters from Ponda suggested that I should contest the election, which not only took me by surprise but also made me tell them that Bhau would shrug off the idea. When Bhau came to know about this suggestion, which was presented to him in the form of a signed memorandum, he chose to remain absent at the central committee meeting of the MGP and allowed the members to take related decision without any pressure. And that’s how I went on to contest the assembly polls.
Q: Can you share with us the moments, which culminated in placing the responsibility of the post of Chief Minister on your shoulder?
Succeeding Bhau as the Chief Minister of the Union Territory was the last thing on my mind. All of us in the family were overtaken by grief (following the demise of Bhau) and in no way such a thought could come to my mind. The then lieutenant governor of Goa, Daman and Diu, S K Bannerji was in Daman at the time of Bhau’s demise, while my brother, Siddharth was in Mumbai, all set to board a plane to America.
Anyway, as I came to know later, the MGP in one voice decided on me as the next chief minister of Goa, Daman and Diu, and on the insistence of the chief secretary that if a new chief minister is not inducted within 24 hours, there could be Constitutional crises, I turned to my mother for her advice. After getting a nod from my mother, I decided to take oath as the chief minister at a swearing-in ceremony that was held at almost mid-night, exactly 24 hours after my father had passed away.
Q: Although Bhau was no more physically present, did he prove to be a guiding force to you, during your tenure as the chief minister?
During my entire career as the chief minister, it was Bhau’s style of functioning, the guidelines he had set for administering the region and the motto of his regime that poor and downtrodden should be the real beneficiaries of power that directed me every moment.