Panaji: The Off shore casinos have become a major poll plank in upcoming by-election for Panaji Assembly constituency, with opposition parties eyeing for ruling on the issue, while BJP claims that the casinos would be moved out of River Mandovi as per the decision of the State government.
Congress and Goa Surkasha Manch, which has raised the pitch for Panaji by-election against BJP, have questioned silence of the ruling party on removing of off-shore casinos from River Mandovi.
GSM Campaign manager Mahesh Mhambrey has recalled that former Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was then Leader of Opposition, had led public protests against off-shore casinos.
He said that Parrikar was using language like sinking the casino vessels in the Sea or ‘andar ghuske marenge’ during the protests, which seems to have died down since BJP came to the power.
“BJP’s manifesto for Panaji by-election has systematically avoided speaking about removing the off shore casinos from River Mandovi. Their leader late Manohar Parrikar had campaigned against off shore casinos before 2012 Goa Assembly election,” he said.
BJP has fielded its former MLA Siddharth Kunkolienkar in the fray while Congress has former State minister Atanasio Monserratte as its candidate. GSM sprung surprise when they fielded former RSS Goa Chief and their mentor Subhash Velingkar as their candidate for the election, that is scheduled to be held on May 19.
The election in this constituency was necessitated after the demise of then Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on March 17, 2019.
Congress party too has raised this as an election plank with Rahul Gandhi-led party assuring to shift out off-shore casinos within 100 days of its candidate getting elected.
“I am not against casinos. The off shore casinos existed because they are allowed to have live-gaming in it. We can shift the live gaming in land base casinos and then off shore vessels can move out of River Mandovi,” said Monserratte, a who has been the part of cabinets led by Manohar Parrikar, Pratapsinh Rane and Digambar Kamat, since the year 2002.
BJP has defended itself from the allegations claiming that State government has adopted a stand to move out off shore casinos.
“All the six off shore casinos which are currently in River Mandovi were permitted by Congress party. Monserratte was very much a part of cabinet that gave licences to these vessels,” BJP Goa Unit President Vinay Tendulkar said.
He said that it is BJP-led government that has taken a firm stand against the off shore casinos and it will fulfill its promise.
State government has given extension of six months to off shore casino vessel in March this year allowing them to operate in River Mandovi.