Panaji, April 5 :
Upset over an unsolved minor girl’s rape, constant police harassment and an inflation-stricken kitchen may have given Goa its only illiterate candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Out of the 19 candidates contesting the general elections from two constituencies in Goa, Balkrishna Salgaonkar, 42, is the only one listed as an illiterate, a rarity in a state, which otherwise likes to flaunt its high literacy rate of over 87 percent.
“It was the Vasco rape case which really was the trigger for me. My brother’s child studies in the same school. We were all terrified. Neither the BJP nor the Congress helped in getting the case properly investigated,” Salgaonkar told IANS.
“The Congress even organized a candle march in protest against the rape in Delhi (Nirbhaya gang rape case), but in Goa they were useless as an opposition,” he said.
Salgaonkar was referring to the rape of a minor girl in school a couple of years back, a crime which has confounded both the police and the Crime Branch. The Central Bureau of Investigation was finally handed the case last year.
Until recently, Salgaonkar had a string of criminal cases registered against him. None of the crimes find mention in the affidavit submitted to the Chief Electoral Officer, because he claims that the cases have fallen through in court.
Salgaonkar runs a grocery store with his wife and brother-in-law and has a Rs.1,000 deposit and between the couple they have possessions worth just over Rs.3 lakh. It was his decision to down his store’s shutters as part of a general protest by the community against sloppy police investigation into the rape, which earned him one of his many cases, he claims.
“The local BJP MLA threatened me to open the store. Even beat me up and then ordered the police to file complaints against me,” Salgaonkar said.
The other trigger for him to contest the election to the South Goa seat was rising cost of vegetables and essentials in Goa.
“The real enemy of the Goan kitchen is (Chief Minister) Manohar Parrikar and his decision to impose toll fee of Rs.500 on every incoming vehicle including trucks carrying supplies and veggies has really increased costs,” Salgaonkar says.
Asked if he seriously expected to win the South Goa seat, Salgaonkar says: “People living here told me to contest instead of just working as social worker. ‘They will vote for me’, is what everyone told me in my neighbourhood. For the other votes, I will only pray to God.”
His campaign has no public meetings, LCDs, thunderous speaker boxes and hordes of ‘well-wishers’.
“I take the public transport bus to major towns like Ponda, Margao, Canacona and campaign in the bus and at markets. I just tell them about the troubles we are having because the Congress is useless and the BJP is corrupt and inefficient,” Salgaonkar says.
Pitted against Salgaonkar is BJP’s Narendra Savoikar, a lawyer, Congress party’s Aliexo Reginaldo, a businessman and agriculturist, and Aam Aadmi Party’s Swati Kerkar, a social worker.