2-time ex-BJP MLA Michael Lobo eyes hat-trick in Goa polls, this time with Cong

ByGerard de Souza, Calangute
Feb 13, 2022 03:09 AM IST

Despite the change of party and resigning from the 40-member Goa legislative assembly, Lobo sounded confident of winning the election ‘with a bigger margin’

Michael Lobo, a former minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Goa government, is eyeing a hat-trick of wins from Calangute, a constituency often regarded as the mainstay of tourism in the coastal state, which will go to polls on February 14.

Former Goa minister Michael Lobo joined the Congress last month. He has represented the BJP from Calangute in the last two legislative assemblies. (ANI)
Former Goa minister Michael Lobo joined the Congress last month. He has represented the BJP from Calangute in the last two legislative assemblies. (ANI)

However, unlike his previous two victories for the saffron party, this year Lobo is leading the fight for the Congress, which he joined along with his wife Delilah last month, saying the BJP was “no longer the same party”.

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The party changed after the death of former chief minister and one of the tallest BJP leaders in the state, Manohar Parrikar, in 2019, he said. “It was no longer the party of the people and even the BJP karyakartas (functionaries) are unhappy. The BJP ceased to be a party of the people. Chief minister Pramod Sawant remained a rubber stamp CM, following the instructions from those above him,” said Lobo, the former minister for port and waste management in the outgoing Sawant-led cabinet.

Despite the change of party and resigning from the 40-member Goa legislative assembly, Lobo sounded confident of winning the election “with a bigger margin”.

“I consulted the people before taking this step (switching to the Congress). I don’t think there will be any change in attitude from the voters,” he said while campaigning in his home constituency.

It will become clear only on March 10 when the votes will be counted if he can indeed score a hat-trick on the state’s electoral pitch, but his meteoric rise from humble origins in Parra village to the assembly and subsequently the cabinet has already made people take note of the 45-year-old leader.

Hailing from a family of potters, Lobo entered the beach shacks business in the 1990s when Calangute was being transformed into a major beach destination in north Goa. The popularity of this tourism hot spot was immortalised by songstress Lorna Cordeiro, whose eponymous tune remains a popular Konkani song to this day.

Today, Lobo is one of the richest among the 301 contestants in the poll fray with assets worth upwards of 84.39 crore. His total assets nearly doubled from the 49.47 crore he was worth back in 2017, information gleaned from the affidavit submitted before the Election Commission revealed.

Also Read | Campaign trail: Jobs emerge as key issue for Goa CM Pramod Sawant

Calangute was a Congress stronghold until Lobo wrest the seat for the BJP in 2012. He defeated then incumbent Congress MLA Agnelo Fernandes by a margin of 1,869 votes after polling 9,891 votes. In 2017 assembly elections, Lobo increased his winning margin to 3,825 votes despite a visible anti-BJP wave in the state. He polled 11,136 votes against Congress’s Joseph Sequeira, who managed 7,311 votes.

Having won the constituency twice, Lobo is now eyeing the entire Bardez taluka comprising seven assembly constituencies. Besides lucrative coastal Calangute, the taluka also includes Siolim (which includes areas such as Anjuna and Vagator), Saligao and Mapusa, among others.

Bardez in north Goa and Salcete taluka with eight seats in south Goa district represent the two largest clusters of assembly seats. While Salcete has traditionally been a Congress stronghold, Bardez has given mixed results. With Lobo on board, the Congress is hoping to wrest Bardez, considered crucial to form the government in the state.

Unlike candidates from the ruling party in other parts of Goa, Lobo does not face many questions regarding job opportunities. With tourism bringing economic prosperity to this once sleepy fishing village that first drew hippies in the 60s and 70s to Goa, residents have cashed in on the boom either through renting out rooms, cars, two-wheelers to tourists or through venturing into other related businesses.

Rapid urbanisation in the constituency, however, has led to different set of problems, including water shortage, urban shabbiness and more recently a loss of income on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While Lobo is generally accepted in these parts, he has made a few political challengers along the way. Joseph Sequeira and Anthony Menezes, two local politicians who had helped Lobo win his first election in 2012, have since turned against him. Sequeira who was with the Congress until Lobo was part of the ruling party, has since joined the BJP and is now campaigning to defeat the former minister.

Sequeira, who has served as a sarpanch in the Calangute constituency for many years now, said he will unseat Lobo.

“The kind of responses I am receiving suggest I am going to win the election. The people of the constituency have for long been waiting for basic necessities like power, water and infrastructure in the form of internal roads. People in general are unhappy with the way things have been for the last ten years and will vote for change,” Sequeira said.

Another rival, Menezes, has joined the Trinamool Congress party, which is making a debut in the state polls, and hopes to damage Lobo’s prospects.

“If Lobo is allowed to win, Calangute will become a second Taleigao,” Pascoal Fernandes, a shack owner along the Candolim stretch, said. Taleigao, a once agrarian village on the outskirts of the state capital, has witnessed a transformation since the year 2002 after Atanasio “Babush” Monserrate was first elected to represent the constituency. Today, the village houses multi-storey apartment complexes on once fertile fields that gave Goa a special variety of brinjal.

Damião Teles, who runs a trinkets stall at the Candolim beach, said Lobo’s ambition has left him unimpressed. “I do not agree with this couple politics and friends circle politics,” Teles said, referring to both Lobo and his wife Delilah given tickets along with some of his nominees by the Congress. “We have to save our sand dunes, our fields and our environment, and Lobo is responsible for much of the urbanisation here.”

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