Sunday 21 April 2024

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Was Matanhy the last hope?


Matanhy was perhaps the last hope from among the veterans, as a champion of regional aspirations. He has also now surrendered himself to the national party.

Matanhy Saldhana has completed the circle of Goan politics. His action of joining a national party – the Bharatiya Janata Party – is a clear message that regionalism is no more a hope for this beautiful tiny state. Not because there are no regional parties. Because Matanhy is one of the champions of politics of regional aspirations through a regional party.

Goa’s politics in fact started with regional aspirations. Neither the Congress nor then strong socialist parties like Praja Samajwadi or Communist parties were dear to Goans when Goa faced its first Assembly election in 1963, soon after liberation in 1961. The issues like Goa’s merger into Maharashtra and whether Konkani or Marathi is the mother tongue of Goans reigned supreme. Thus was the era we witnessed of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the United Goans Party till post-emergency 1977 election. The MGP ruled and the UGP opposed.

The MGP came back to power in 1977 in spite of nation-wide wave of Janata Party led by Jayprakash Narayan, but the UGP split to merge into the Janata Party and the Congress. The Assembly was dissolved prematurely to face early election in 1979 as some MGP MLAs joined hands with the Congress, which had entered Goa’s political arena with 10 seats.

This was the beginning of the downfall of the MGP, which won only seven seats, including Daman and Diu. Even Shashikala lost in Bicholim to independent Harish Zantye. The Congress came to power by winning 20 seats. Shashikala announced MGP merger into the Congress, but Ramakant Khalap and Babuso Gaonkar, two MGP MLAs, refused to join the Congress. They kept the MGP alive, increased its strength later on, but could never come back to power. Later, in 1994 election, they had to tie up with the national party – the Bharatiya Janata Party – to maintain its so called regional identity.

It was in this background, in late ‘80s,  social activists like Matanhy Saldhana, Adv Amrut Kansar, Prof Sergio Carvalho, Christopher Fonseca, Raju Mangeshkar etc got together to form a regional outfit – Gomant Lok Pokx. They even started a political periodical – The Goan Weekly. Though they could not succeed in electoral politics, the GLP remained a hope for regional politics till it died a natural death by mid-90.

Then came the United Goans Democratic Party in 1999 election by winning two seats. The party was later hijacked by Churchill Alemao, who used it to blackmail the Congress to serve his selfish motives. The similar modus operandi was later followed by Babush Monseratte and Mickky Pacheco through UGDP. The only ‘real’ UGDP MLAs the party elected were Radharao Gracias from Loutolim in a bye-election for 1989 Assembly and Matanhy Saldhana in 2002 election. Being staunch anti-Congressman, Matanhy preferred to support the BJP-led Manohar Parrikar government than supporting the Congress.

Hardly anybody looks at Matanhy only as a politician. Being a social activist, Matanhy has been fighting for the Render, Ramponkar, farmer victims of Zuari Industries as well as for Konkani, statehood, special status and also against the draconian regional plan,  SEZs and CRZ violations.

Meantime, Adv Amrut Kansar joined the Congress to contest Lok Sabha election while trade unionists Christopher Fonseca and Raju Mangeshkar joined the CPI by late ’90. Now, by 2012, Matanhy has also joined the national party – the BJP.

Meantime, several other namesake regional outfits mushroomed, but they were nothing but groups of Congress rebellions like Dr Wilfred de Souza’s Goa Congress, Churchill Alemao’s Save Goa Party and today’s Mickky Pacheco’s Goa Vikas Party. Nobody looks at these parties as ‘regional’, championing the cause of regional aspirations.

Matanhy was perhaps the last hope from among the veterans, as a champion of regional aspirations. He has also now surrendered himself to the national party. It is a different matter altogether whether a ‘secular’ person like Matanhy should join a party talking about Hindutva. But it is a fact that he has lost hopes in regional parties.

How to analyse it now? That the era of regional politics is over? Or should it be the beginning of a new era with a new agenda of regional aspirations? Do we need to define regionalism afresh? Or is Goa now fully national, with no regional aspirations left? Is it an end; or the beginning of a new thinking on ‘regionalism’?

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

Situation forces honest person to change sides some time. Any body who has seen 1965-75 period has thought of Mr.Uday Bhembre will sit next to Mrs. Shashikala Kakodkar on BBSM dias ?


Shekhar |


I even never thought that this could be an angle of the story.

vasudev Pagi |

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Sandesh Prabhudesai (EdiThought)

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of Prudent & Goa365, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities. After retirement from day-to-day journalism in 2020, he is into Re-Search Journalism (पुनर्सोद पत्रकारिता), focusing on analytical articles, Video programs & Books.


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