Ahead of the Goa Assembly election next month, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Wednesday announced noted Goa-based lawyer and social activist Amit Palekar as its Chief Ministerial candidate.
The announcement is in keeping with the AAP’s promise made in November last year that its Chief Ministerial face would be from the Bhandari community, which forms the largest electoral bloc in the coastal State (comprising more than 30%) and whose members fall under the other backward classes (OBC) category. The AAP had also said that its party’s Deputy Chief Minister would be from the Catholic Christian community.
Congratulating Mr. Palekar, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal said that in choosing him, the AAP had kept its promised of giving Goans a CM candidate “who was highly educated, devoted to Goa and capable of moving along with all communities and different social classes, be it in North Goa or South Goa.”
“Mr. Palekar is educated and beloved among all communities in the State. His commitment to society is admirable and he has been doing commendable work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He fought for issues pertaining to the Christian communities in Old Goa to preserve the State’s heritage… One cannot hope for a better Chief Ministerial candidate in these times and I hope Goans elect him with a handsome majority,” said Mr. Kejriwal.
The Delhi CM asserted that there was a feeling of deep hurt and injustice among the Bhandari community which is the largest community in Goa.
Since the State’s liberation from the Portuguese yoke in 1961, the community has thrown up only one Chief Minister _ Ravi Naik, a former Congressman now with the BJP.
“The Bhandari community constitutes anywhere between 30 or 40% of the State’s total populace. Despite being the largest section of Goan society, just one member of this community has been Goa’s CM in the last 60 years since 1961, and that too, for a brief period of one-and-a-half years,” said Mr. Kejriwal.
He hit out at detractors who had accused the AAP of playing ‘casteist politics’ by announcing a CM candidate from the Bhandari community, remarking that by the declaration, the AAP was “finishing-off the feeling of injustice that was created by other parties” who had never tried to elect a CM from the community.
“The Bhandari community has given their sweat and blood for Goa and have participated in every facet of Goa’s progress. Then why are its members being kept away from political leadership?” said Mr. Kejriwal.
Promising to restore the Goans’ lost identity, Mr. Palekar said that only the AAP had a vision in Goa’s corrupt political scenario on how to take the State forward.
“From a student, who despite being a topper could not get a government job due to rampant corruption to being declared AAP’s CM face, I have come a long way ahead. Had my father been alive today, he would have been very proud,” said Mr. Palekar.
He said that Goans did not need to tolerate the cheap political gimmicks being played by politicos who kept changing parties every second day.
“The current [BJP] government has been riddled with scams, be they on the job front or during the pandemic…the educational infrastructure is in a shambolic state. Today, Goans have no opportunities within Goa and are forced to migrate in search of jobs. The AAP has done wonders with Delhi with its vision of free healthcare, the best education and its corruption-free governance…What has happened in Delhi, can happen in Goa as well,” said Mr. Palekar, who is the AAP’s candidate from the Santa Cruz constituency in North Goa.
Remarking that Goa wanted “change” and that its people were “tired” with the same corrupt politicians and parties who had captured the State’s politics, Mr. Kejriwal said that through Goans had limited political options until now, the AAP had emerged as an alternative today.
“In every corner of Goa, people today know the AAP from its work on good schools, hospital and providing free electricity in Delhi,” the Delhi CM said.
The AAP has thus far declared 30 candidates in the 40-seat Assembly election which is slated on February 14.