MCC elections - Is Congress taking Christian community for granted?
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore
Mangalore, Feb 25: Saturday February 23, 2013, was the last day for filing nominations for the civic polls in seven urban local bodies (ULB’s) in Dakshina Kannada district which are going for polls on March 7, 2013. As such, all major political parties finalized the list of names of their candidates on the final day, thus putting an end to the apprehensions of many hopefuls who were trying for their party’s nominations.
The Congress party also released the list of 60 candidates on Saturday for the 60 wards of Mangalore City Corporation. The Congress is determined to get back its hegemony over the city corporation which it lost to the BJP in 2007, for the first time in two and half decades.
Though the list has put an end to the suspense of who is in and who is out, it has also led to displeasure among the sizeable Catholic community, one of the main supporters of the Congress in Mangalore for years. Their main grouse is that the Congress has given tickets to only five Christians as compared to the seven they got in the 2007 polls. Many Catholic leaders, party functionaries and even commoners have expressed their dismay and anguish over the treatment meted out to Christians by the Congress party by the meager representation given to them. Even the seven seats they allotted to Christians in 2007 is said to be a big let down because in the 2002 elections when late Blasius D Souza was at the helm in district Congress, Christians were given 11 seats in the city corporation elections.
Naveen D'Souza, Jacintha Alfred, Greta D'Silva, Sabita Misquith, Lancelot Pinto
The party this time has fielded five Catholics namely Sabitha Misquith from Shivbagh, Lancelot Pinto from Bejai, Jacintha Vijay Alfred from Falnir, Greta D Silva from Valencia and Naveen D Souza from Bendoor. One more seat is allotted to Vinay Raj from Court Road, who belongs to the Jacobite sect. But Roman Catholic community feels they have been allotted only five seats. Nevertheless, Christians feel that the ommunity is let down by the Congress party by allotting only five seats to the community. The protestants are also a miffed because there is no representation for them.
As if to prove the point Christians are pointing out that the JD (S) which released its list on Saturday, has given adequate representation to Christians, which they feel should put the Congress to shame. The party has given 9 seats to the Christian/protestant community, which reinforces that Christians are indeed a force to reckon with in Mangalore.
The community leaders are also pointing out that the party had allotted 11 seats to the Muslims 2007, another major vote bank of the party. This year too they have been allotted 11 seats and Christians argue that while the Congress has not risked incurring the wrath of the Muslims it has been very inconsiderate to the sentiments of the Christian community even taking a calculated risk.
All is not well
Needless to say the attitude of the party has come as a big shocker for the Christians who now feel badly let down by the Congress and are wondering whether the Congress party, whom they have been supporting all these years, is taking their support for granted. They also wonder why the Congress took the risk of displeasing the community at a time when there is a strong demand to allot the Mangalore MLA seat to the Christian community in Mangalore.
In the 28 member selection committee formed by senior Congress leader Janardhana Poojary, who is in charge of these elections for selecting the candidates, there were only five leaders of the Christian community namely J R Lobo, Ivan D Souza, Naveen D Souza, Ashith Pereira and Arun Coelho. While this representation itself was inadequate in a 28-member committee, the party has rendered another blow to it by reducing the representation which the community truly deserves.
According to reliable sources, Congress leaders of the district are apprised of the community’s displeasure on the injustice done to them. When daijiworld spoke to Ramanath Rai, District president of the Congress, he agreed that the party should have got two more seats considering the population of the community and loyalty to the Congress. He however, said that it was not intentional and the fact that there were not many applications from the community coupled with the reservation factor that has to be followed, made it difficult for the party in deciding the candidature. Ramanath Rai stated “Congress party has always responded favourably to issues involving catholic community. We have given seats to all those who have applied for it. The problem was that there were not many who sought party tickets in the general category wards and we could do nothing”.
Congress leader Ivan D Souza, one of the aspirants for the MLA seat from Mangalore, when contacted said that the present situation cannot be compared to what it was at the time of late Blasius D Souza, largely because the equations have changed considerably following the reservation of seats. He also pointed out that Christians have not come forward to file their candidature in most of the wards apart from the reserved areas. “Wherever Christians have applied they have been allotted the seats. I feel that there should be active participation of our community leaders who are capable of winning from any ward. They should be confident to face the voters even in those areas where Christians are in minority”. Ivan denied that the Congress party has taken the support of Christians for granted.
Former Commissioner of the city corporation J R Lobo, also one of the strong contenders for the MLA seat from Mangalore, agreed that there has been some injustice and that the matter has been brought to the notice of Congress leaders at the helm. Though he said it was unintentional, the party leaders now want to ensure that all the five candidates win the elections and help the party to come to power. “It is not the number that matters. Now we have to ensure that we win all the seats allotted to us. Otherwise there is a danger looming large and community will suffer a huge setback at a time when the assembly elections are in the offing”, he pointed out.
Lobo also stated that the party leaders have now promised that if wins the MCC elections, justice will be done to the community as the party can nominate five seats to the Corporation and due representation will be given to the community by nominating some members.
IFKCA State President Michael Baptist has also brought to the notice of the Congress leaders the displeasure of the community. He has also urged them to give due representation to the community in all the elections.
Neither here nor there
Corporator James D Souza has found himself in a situation of being neither here nor there. James who was in BJP had recently joined the Congress party as senior party leaders like Ivan D Souza, Ramanath Rai and even Oscar Fernandes had requested him to rejoin the Congress and had promised party ticket. He was flabbergasted when his name was not found in the list and he is now contesting as an independent candidate. So Ramanath Rai is not fully right when he says they have given tickets to all those who asked for it. Moreover, Ramanath Rai agreed that he along with Ivan was instrumental in bringing James D Souza back to the party fold and that he had tried his level best to get the party ticket to him but could not succeed. Ramanath Rai sounded as if he was helpless as he was unable to fulfill the promise given to James D Souza.
According to reliable sources, it is said that one of the Christian members of the selection committee had opposed James’s candidature tooth and nail on flimsy grounds. This member even cited the example of James supporting the action taken against the illegal water connection scandal involving a reputed catholic hospital of Mangalore, a few years ago.
J R Lobo, however, refused to comment on the fiasco arising out of denial of party ticket to James D Souza saying he was not involved in the matter of either bringing him back to the party or opposing his candidature. He said the party leaders are seized of the matter and would do justice to the community. At the same time he pointed out that community candidates fighting elections against one another, is the biggest threat faced by the party candidates who are in the fray.
In the meantime James D Souza had decided to contest as an independent candidate from Maroli ward. James had joined the BJP after his expulsion from Congress for supporting the candidature of Kavitha Sanil for the chairmanship of one of the standing committees of the Corporation. Speaking to daijiworld James says “It was shocking for me not to find my name in the list of candidates. I was brought back to the party at the insistence of senior Congress leaders. Now this man (Janardhana Poojary) has said no for my candidature by heeding to the complaints of people who consider me as a threat to them”.
When pointed out that his changing of the party in 2007 might have been the reason for denying the ticket he cited the example of Kavitha Sanil who had contested as an independent candidate from Pachanady, Vishwanth who contested from Alape and Harish from Idya as independent candidates but getting party tickets this time.
The Catholic community leaders now want to ensure that they win whatever seats allotted to them so that they have the bargaining power when it comes to getting ticket to the assembly seat in the forthcoming elections. But the displeasure of the community which has been brought to the notice of the Congress leaders should be an eye opener to the leaders they cannot take the community support for granted, always.