Wednesday, September 28, 2016


The entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on the Goan electoral scene has thrown up some interesting responses from their apparent rivals. One criticism of AAP is that it continues the culture of taking orders from the ‘High Command’ in Delhi, effectively being no different from other ‘national’ parties that have ruled Goa thus far. Given that Goa has been ruled by one or the other of the national parties in the last decade, one can understand the existence of such a sentiment against ‘High Command’ and ‘Delhi’ as these power blocs have overseen most of the political mess in recent times. On the other hand, raking up the problem of the ‘High Command’ is an easy go-to solution for Goan parties, like Goa Forward, which can also conceal their lack of political vision for the future.

Also, the above-mentioned criticism leveled is not unfounded. A year ago, its now-expelled founder-member Yogendra Yadav had issued a statement calling the functioning of the top leadership of AAP as “Delhi Durbar culture”. It also doesn’t help matters much that the sales-pitch of Goa’s AAP has been that their successful model of governance in Delhi will be replicated in Goa. Notwithstanding the fact that the conditions in Goa and Delhi differ, such a sales-pitch is uncannily similar to the one in which the ‘Gujarat model’ was held as applicable to and transformative for the whole country.

No doubt, AAP is not the only party to operate in the ‘High Command’ mode. Other ‘national’ parties like the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too operate this way. Even an organization like the RSS which set up base in Goa so many years ago is part of the ‘High Command’ culture – the only difference is that the RSS is headquartered in Nagpur and not Delhi. Thus, one can go beyond political parties and see how the ‘High Command’ can thrive in different ways in different organizations.

 However, it can be argued that due to the centralized nature of the Indian State, diktats from Delhi are not simply limited to commands by the top-brass of political parties. They go much further, including laws, policies, and decisions that the states have to follow or enforce. The system of administration and governance in India does not follow a ‘federal’ model, and hence most of the important legislations are in fact made in Delhi. Terms like ‘national interest’ are indicative that the state at the regional level has very little say.

Take, for instance, the recent issue of ‘nationalizing’ Goa’s rivers. This basically means that the Central government will control the use of the rivers. The protests against such a move may have started now, but the proposed ‘nationalization’ was conceptualized way back in 2010. Similarly, the issue of holding Portuguese citizenship along with Indian citizenship is an example of a specifically Goan issue which Goans are not allowed to decide themselves. It is said that under Indian law ‘dual citizenship’ is not possible and when the issue was referred to ‘Delhi’, the concerned authorities determined the issue without giving due attention to Goa’s legal history or its present conditions.

So, the point to take home is that a culture of ‘High Command’ is not only intrinsic, but is also endemic to the political and administrative system in India. The alternative of a Goa-centric political outfit, in all honesty, hasn’t ever existed in Goa. In this context one can recall the government under the Chief Ministership of Dayanand Bandodkar. The surprise victory of Bandodkar in the first elections of 1963 halted the triumphal march of the Congress party. The Congress, despite being the sole ‘national’ party at that time, and one which had overseen the departure of the Estado da Índia, was rejected by the majority of Goan voters.

This is not to say that Bandodkar and his Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party were consciously being regional, but to suggest that a combination of voting for a non-national party, and a politics of taking (Marathi) education to the bahujan classes led to approximately 20 years – from 1960s to 1980s – of Goa apparently avoiding the ‘High Command’ system and culture. At least to a certain extent. Against the ‘national’ policy of investing in higher education, Bandodkar focused his attention on primary education, as Parag Porobo argues in his book India’s First Democratic Revolution (2015). But while Bandodkar may have thus operated differently from the ‘national’ in some respects, there were other instances when he was under the pressure of powers from Delhi. For example, Bandodkar had to work closely with the government at the Center, as a chief minister of a union territory had fewer powers, during the Opinion Poll and very often claimed to be a Congressman himself.

As for a local party, there is no real alternative available largely because the regional parties have mostly preferred to sway the electorate with tired clichés about ‘Goemkarponn’ and ‘saving Goa’. Such tired clichés mean nothing as they are narrowly-defined to serve vested interests. Having a regional or local political outfit does not guarantee that the culture of the ‘High Command’ will cease to exist or that the interests of all kinds of Goans will be safeguarded. In fact, if observed closely the regional parties, like the national ones, always serve the interests of the elites of the dominant class and caste in Goa. Laws such as the Investment Promotion Act are fast-tracked in the name of national development. Either the Indian elites or the Goan ones, or both, get a lion’s share from Goa’s ‘development’ – be it in real estate or in mining. Ultimately what needs to be ascertained properly is how much power is shared by either the ‘High Command’ or the local power blocs with those who are not part of, or do not have access to, the state machinery and institutions. 

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 28 September, 2016)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


The apparent fissure between the RSS and its Goa leadership, and the tension between the Goa RSS and the BJP was projected in the media as an important development in the country. The sacking of Subhash Velingkar from his duties as the head of the Goa RSS unit, and his subsequent forming of an RSS unit in Goa, independent of Nagpur, were events of importance for the upcoming elections in 2017 and 2019, according to many political commentators. While Velingkar was sacked by the Nagpur leadership which led to mass resignation of hundreds of RSS members in Goa, one is at a loss to understand how is it that the rebel-organization still claims to maintain administrative and official links with the Nagpur headquarters. Indeed, there was never any talk of disowning the ideology of the RSS. As such one needs to ask if this apparent revolt in the RSS is really significant or not.

The context in which we understand the so-called RSS revolt in Goa will determine the political future of Goa for the next five or ten years. Presently, this so-called revolt has been understood as one erupting due to the upcoming elections. If anything, elections are only a small part of the causes that provoked the so-called revolt. One needs to instead focus on how the interventions of the RSS and other political parties have created, or sustained, conditions in which Hindutva and marginalization persists.

Let us try to see how the apparent fissures can or will impact some of the burning issues of policy- and legislation-making in Goa. If we take the issue of Medium of Instruction (MoI), nothing appears to be so radical vis-à-vis the fissures in the RSS. The ostensible reason for the sacking and revolt of Velingkar is his refusal to accept the decision of government grants to Diocesan-run schools. Velingkar feels that such grants should be completely stopped. While the BJP government, under the then chief ministership of Manohar Parrikar, had cleverly skirted the issue of allowing government funding for all English medium schools, by only allowing grants to “minority institutions”, the hardcore RSS members and the equally Hindutvavadi Bharitya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) saw even this as a betrayal of the Hindutva or majoritarian cause. Thus, the issue now got projected as one driven by apparent Christian interests, whereas in reality it was a legitimate demand made by a number of Goan communities. The manner in which the MoI issue has been handled thus far has jeopardized the education and futures of all Goan children. And as I have pointed out in the past on several occasions, the lack of government funding to English will further affect low-income and bahujan families by depriving them of the tools of social mobility.

This politics of casteism embedded in the mobilization of Velingkar and his BBSM was acknowledged by the Forum for Rights of Children’s Education (FORCE) as being “anti-Bahujan Samaj”.  Denying social mobility to the bahujan classes is very much within the RSS’s vision of maintaining the four-fold Indian hierarchy of varnas and thousands of jatis for keeping intact the dominance and superiority of the upper caste Hindu. In the case of Velingkar and the BBSM this is done in the guise of protecting Indian culture and languages, while making sure that no steps are taken to ensure that various bahujan and minoritized communities would get social and economic mobility.

In many ways, Velingkar’s silence over the casinos exposes his hypocrisy. Velingkar claims that his opposition to English is because English is equivalent to ‘Western culture’ which compromises the fundamental ideology of the RSS. However, the numerous volte faces by this government on the issue of casinos did not lead to any protests by Velingkar. The casinos surely check all the boxes of promoting Western culture, apart from being harmful to the riverine environment of the Mandovi and the livelihoods related to this ecology. But only English education leads to the destruction of Indian culture, going by Velingkar’s revolt.

While on the topic of Indian culture and how the RSS polices anything outside this narrowly defined Indian culture, one needs to see how Hindutva operates in marginalizing communities. Immediately after Velingkar’s apparent split became public, right-wing think tanks started analyzing the event as one that was created because the Church and the Church-run institutions were given favorable treatment by the BJP government. In other words, the apparent appeasement of minoritized communities and their institutions are responsible for the failure of the BJP to uphold their own ideology. In fact, days after the apparent revolt when the breakaway faction lead by Velingkar clarified that they would go back to the RSS proper once they successfully oust the BJP in the coming elections, Velingkar also revealed that he would like to oppose moves demanding dual citizenship, and the promotion of Portuguese culture through cultural fests. One need not be a rocket scientist to realize that Velingkar is effectively targeting not Portuguese or Western culture but the Christian communities who are associated with these cultures.

While it is true that elections are around the corner, one needs to be wary of how such political revolts and bickering can divert our attention away from important policies and legislations. Velingkar was always clear that the principles of the RSS cannot be ever sacrificed, even if it means working against the BJP in Goa. Even if it might appear to be a game-changer, the core of what really drives organizations like the RSS and the BBSM has not changed one bit.

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 14 September, 2016)