Residents of two Goa villages Show the power of boycott


Following the assurance that connecting roads to their villages will be built, the residents of Marle-Tirval in Canacona and Ansulem in Poriem have agreed to come to the polling booths on April 23 to elect their representatives to the Lok Sabha. The villagers had earlier threatened to boycott the elections angered by the failure of the government to construct roads to connect their villages. The Marle-Tirval hamlet in located in Khotigao and forms a part of the Canacona Assembly constituency. Ansulem is a part of Bhirondem panchayat and a part of Poriem constituency. The people in both places had been demanding construction of road connecting their hamlets, but no one listened. They seized the opportunity of elections to draw the attention of political leaders and district officers and announced their decision not to go for voting, a threat which brought politicians and officials running to them. They were happy to see the officers come and they poured out their hearts to them. For years no political leader or officer  was so much solicitous of them. The officers assured them that their demands would be met once the model code of conduct is over.

The success of the villagers of Marle-Tirval and Ansulem in getting quick response from authorities with their poll boycott threat has proved that the government machinery yields only under pressure. Why were their demands for proper road connectivity not fulfilled for years? Was it because the two Assembly constituencies were represented by the Opposition? Canacona is represented by Isidore Fernandes and Poriem by Pratapsing Rane. Though the government of the day is duty bound to do justice of all, MLAs belonging to opposition parties have often complained that the constituencies represented by them get a raw deal as far as development is concerned. No government should make a discrimination on a political basis. However, it has to be noted that it is not only the BJP-led government but even the Congress government that preceded it did not make the roads the residents of the two villages were demanding.

There are cases in which development in constituency is used as an issue by MLAs to attack their political rivals. What to talk to opposition MLAs, even some of the MLAs in the ruling camp have been complaining about neglect of development in their constituencies. They point to political design in that, suggesting that the concerned ministers are not allowing development works for their constituencies in order to undermine their political status. Some opportunistic MLAs use development of their constituency as a great excuse for justifying their defection from the opposition to the ruling side, as we have seen in the cases of Vishwajit Rane, Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte. That again goes to suggest that constituencies belonging to legislators in the ruling camp get preference for everything, be it for development or for recruitment of government staff. No ruling party or coalition should misuse its powers to slow down or obstruct development in constituencies represented by opposition MLAs in order to compel them to switch sides or make compromises with the ministers in one form or the other, such as desisting from making frontal attack on the government or asking uncomfortable questions in the Assembly.

The threats of the people from Marle-Tirval and Ansulem should serve as eye opener not only for the ministers and district officers, but also to the MLAs. Their decision to vote in the Lok Sabha elections after assurances from the officers should be welcomed as they have done it in full faith that the road they are asking for will be built. Political leaders and district officers need to ask themselves why they had been indifferent to their demand all these years. The people  were not demanding projects that involved a huge expenditure, after all. They were asking for basic things. They have succeeded in forcing political leaders and officers to make a promise to fulfill their demands. However, the success could prove illusory if the ministers and officers ignore them and forget to do what they should have done without the people forcing them in any case. The government has to remember that for Goa to deserve to be called a developed state in the true sense, every part of it has to have the basic infrastructure in place.