Panaji, Dec 29 (IANS) A radical political shift, cheap petrol and the ban on mining ensured that Goa remained in the limelight in 2012.
The year's first big surprise was the manner in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) romped to power, trouncing the Congress-led coalition government whose ministers were battling severe corruption allegations. Even Chief Minister Digmabar Kamat was found desperately staving off allegations of corruption and papering over illegalities in the mining sector. This gave the BJP an opportunity to return to power after a hiatus of eight years.
"Our victory was on the plank of development. That the Congress did not do anything at all for the state and was involved in one controversy after the other also helped us," Health Minister Laxmikant Parsenkar, a former state
BJP president, told IANS.
For the record, the Congress was reduced to a single digit - a more nine - in the 40- member assembly, while the BJP won a majority of 21.
The election also saw four members of the Alemao family - one of the most powerful and controversial in Goa - lose in the elections. Three of them had contested on the Congress ticket, while one fought as a Nationalist Congress Party candidate.
The ban on mining had been a long time in coming.
Unprecedented levels of illegal mining, under a sympathetic government had already been wreaking in the Goan hinterland, with over 30 percent of the ore mined (50 million tonnes) reported to be illegal, according to the state
"The Supreme Court ban (in October) had to happen. The way in which illegal mining was gathering momentum, something had to give way," said Ramesh Gauns, a schoolteacher who was one of the key activists against illegal mining.
That the ban was imminent was clear when the report of the Justice M.B. Shah commission of inquiry was tabled in parliament, pegging the illegal mining scam at Rs. 35,000 crore. It also brought then chief minister Kamat and several other bureaucrats and mining companies into the ambit of the scam.
The Shah Commission report, which was attached as evidence by anti-mining petitioners in the Supreme Court, was a basis on which the apex court banned mining in Goa, pending a probe by its central empowered committee.
The ban continues, as does the Supreme court hearing on the issue.
And finally the fuel did not add to the fire. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar's poll promise of reducing petrol prices by Rs.11 (after reducing VAT down to 0.1 per cent) made the state one of the cheapest places in India where one could buy petrol at Rs 55.70.
According to Parrikar, "the average estimated loss for the year 2012-13 to the exchequer would be about Rs.165 crore".
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)