By Balaji Shenoy
Shashikala Kakodkar has contributed a lot to Goan politics and the society. She was a freedom fighter, who participated in Goa’s struggle for freedom, served as chief minister of Goa, Daman and Diu for six years, general manager and managing director of Bandodkar Group of Companies and as leader of Bahujan Samaj.
She tried her level best to uplift the masses. She even established educational institutions. Her role as an education minister of Goa was also remarkable. Her love towards mother tongue is seen right from her entry into politics and is still evident today, when she came out on the streets to fight against the government decision on medium of instruction.
Shashikala Kakodkar was born on January 7, 1935 in Pernem. She was the first child of Dayanand Bandodkar and Sunanda Pednekar. Usha Vengurlekar, Kranti Rao, Jyoti Bandekar and Siddharth Bandodkar are her younger siblings. She completed her elementary education from Mustifund school. She completed her matriculation from Peoples High School, Panaji.
At the age of 11, she participated in Goa’s struggle for freedom. She was shouting slogans ‘Jai Hind’ and was beaten up by Portuguese police officer for this act. She fearlessly participated in the struggle for freedom at a very tender age. From 1954 to 1958 she was at Fatima College Dharwad where she studied anthropology, sociology and history, and was awarded Bachelors of Arts. She completed her Masters in Arts from Elphinstone College Mumbai.
The year 1963 was a double joyous occasion for Shashikala because the first ever democratic elections took place in Goa after the 450 years of colonial domination and her father Dayanand Bandodkar became the first chief minister of Goa, Daman and Diu Union territory. Secondly, she got married to Gurudatt Kakodkar. In 1968, she was made general manager of Bandodkar Group of Companies. She was the member of Youth Red Cross Society, All India Women Conference and Central Social Welfare Board.
Shashikala was into social work since she came to Goa after completing her post graduation from Mumbai. She entered Goan politics in 1967 general elections, when the question of Goa’s identity was solved. Elections were held on April 12, 1967; she contested election from Ponda constituency and won the seat with vast majority. In 1972, she contested from Bicholim constituency. This time she became the minister in Bandodkar’s cabinet. But the destiny had something else for her. On August 12, 1973 Dayanand Bandodkar passed away. And on the same day she was appointed as the Chief Minister of Goa, Daman and Diu. She was not new in politics but the responsibilities at the age of 38 were too much for her. There were many who were not happy with her leadership.
In 1977 general elections were held; there was a shift in Goa’s local political polarisation but MGP managed to form the government. This was her second tenure as chief minister of the union territory. As the unemployment rate was going on increasing, ‘Taee’ realised the need for industrialisation and established industrial estates in Goa. She established 11 industrial estates in Goa which created employment for the Goan youths.
Towards the end of her tenure, her government was hit by two major agitations-one led by traditional fishermen (ramponkar agitation) protesting against the government policy and another led by students demanding 50 per cent bus fare concession for all bonafide students. Latter was largely successful. She accepted the demand of the students.
On April 23, 1979, Taee faced a major problem in her political career as three MLAs from MGP left the party and the government was reduced to minority and Shashikala Kakodkar’s government after 6 years of her rule collapsed and President’s Rule was imposed in Goa, Daman and Diu.
From 1967 till 2002, for almost 35 years Shashikala Kakodkar devoted her life to politics and to the society. She possessed certain inherent qualities which could enable her to emerge as an efficient and effective leader- youthfulness, sensitive outlook, personal charm, varied experience, tremendous affection and support from the party and people irrespective of religion.
She established Siddharth Bandodkar Higher Secondary School in Velguem, where her father established Shrimati Bandodkar High School. It was Shashikala Kakodkar who started grants to government Marathi and Konkani primary schools in 1991 when she was the education minister.
When the question of mother tongue arose in 2011-12, Shashikala came out on the streets to agitate against the government decision on medium of instruction.
She is truly an iron lady of Goa. Shashikala Kakodkar has played multiple roles and has proved that a woman can do many things in her life.
(The writer is an Archivist (Publication), Directorate of Archives and Archaeology)
By Balaji Shenoy