Elvis Gomes, the Aam Aadmi Party’s chief ministerial face in Goa, believes his experience as a bureaucrat places him in the best possible position to transform its sclerotic administration. In an interview with Aman Sethi, he speaks on his plans to create jobs, eliminate graft and get special status for the state. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Why are you running for the elections? And why did you pick the Aam Aadmi Party?
It was not a sudden decision. I have served as a bureaucrat for 20 long years. Having served governments under both the BJP and the Congress, I have seen that everybody from the political class is the same. There is no ideology, philosophy or principle – everything’s ad hocism. The focus is not on the common man at all. When you try to do something for the people as a bureaucrat, you find yourself at odds with the government.
Can you offer an example of such a clash with the government?
In my long career, there have been many occasions when my seniority was superseded by former chief ministers Digambar Kamat (Congress) and Manohar Parrikar (BJP) – who abused the system to promote their relations. When I was due for induction into the Indian Administrative Service in 2013, they manipulated the system with the active participation of chief secretaries and secretaries. They thought I would take it lying down. The court delivered its verdict in my favour, and made scathing observations against the government. However, the government continued to shield its favourites. That incident spurred me to put in my papers and join the Aam Aadmi Party.
But if you’ve spent 20 years in the system, why should voters trust you to change it?
There comes a time in your career when you say enough is enough. That’s when your tolerance limit is breached, and you take the call to change things. You can be there for 20 years – you start as a junior, rise to the level of senior, to the level of super-senior, and then to the helm of affairs, but you still see what they (the government) are doing to you. What about the common man, then? The government will run roughshod over them.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau is questioning you in connection with a scam, wherein you allegedly changed land-use of agricultural land to residential land to benefit a private party, during your tenure as managing director of the Goa Housing Board. What is your response?
That case was deliberately foisted on me just to keep me under a cloud, and make people think that Mr Elvis Gomes is also corrupt. That case was meant purely for media consumption. It is alleged that there was a proposal to acquire land under the land acquisition act in 2008. On March 19, 2011, the board took the decision to drop the acquisition. I joined only on March 25, 2011. This decision of the board, taken before I joined, was forwarded to the government. How could I have been even remotely connected to that? I have worked with them (the government). They have a dirty tricks department. I have seen it being used against others, and now it is being used against me.
If elected, what are your plans for Goa?
My main focus will be on employment generation. Over-reliance on the government sector has resulted in the ballooning of government machinery, making it very unproductive. At present, when industries are invited, the government gives them land and infrastructure but does not ask who their workforce will comprise. As a result, they import labour. That adds to the burden on infrastructure here, and the migrant labourers are not provided with housing. Locals, for their part, are left wondering what to do. Our focus will be on ensuring that only non-polluting industries are let in, and they provide us with an employment blueprint that creates decent jobs with good wages and arrests the migration trend that has set into Goa.
People say you are the “B-Team” of the BJP, propped up to divide the Catholic community’s votes.
That’s just propaganda spread by the BJP and Congress. We won 67 out of 70 seats in Delhi, marginalising the BJP and relegating the Congress to the zero position. So, what right do they have to say we are the B-Team? Everybody in Goa was disgusted with the Congress’ corruption, so the Catholics and Muslims – people who never voted for the BJP in their lifetime – decided to vote for the BJP. But they were let down. Now, they have the option to vote for change.
What is the AAP’s position on special status for Goa?
Sonia Gandhi assured Goans at a public meeting in 2007 that special status would be granted to the state under article 371. They came to power the same year, they were ruling at the Centre too, but nothing happened. In January 2014, Modi said the same thing at a public meeting. Today, they occupy the state as well as the central government, but nothing is happening. We will do everything possible under the state legislation to ensure that our land is protected. Locals are tired watching incidents of land-grab occur in Goa day after day. Land-grabbing can be prevented through local laws.
Will you lobby with the Centre to get special status?
That exercise will go on, but we do not have anything at the Centre right now. So we will do everything in our means to see that some sort of special status is granted.