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Why ‘Parrikar Boy’ Michael Lobo, Goa’s Richest Candidate, Is Sure of Hat-trick This Election

By: Divya Kapoor

News18.com

Last Updated: March 24, 2022, 20:56 IST

Goa

Michael Lobo meets locals from Calangute as part of his door-to-door campaign.  (News18).

Michael Lobo meets locals from Calangute as part of his door-to-door campaign. (News18).

Lobo and his wife, Delilah, are the richest candidates in the coastal state with assets worth Rs 92 crore each. Delilah is contesting from the Siolim constituency and a denial of Siolim ticket to her was part of the reason why, the BJP has claimed, Lobo quit the saffron party.

Most conversations in the close-knit Goan circles these days lead to one pertinent question: ‘Voting for the BJP or Congress?’ An occasional pitch can also be heard for the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). But not in Calangute, a coastal town and a popular tourist destination in the North Goa district. Here, votes will largely be cast either in favour of or against Michael Lobo, Goa’s richest poll candidate who recently quit the BJP and shook hands with the Congress.

Lobo, considered to be a strongman in the Bardez taluka, has been busy with a door-to-door campaign which, he says matter-of-factly, he wouldn’t have undertaken had it not been for the change in party symbol (from Lotus to Hand).

“People know me here. They have seen the development here in the past 10 years. I know all my voters. I know who lives in which house and how many voters that house has. I am winning for sure,” Lobo declares with the confidence of a candidate who has done his election math.

His campaign entourage of about 40 people includes former and current sarpanches, resort owners, locals who run water sports businesses, etc. This election, if won, will be his third consecutive feat.

Lobo held the portfolios of port and waste management under chief minister Pramod Sawant. He is known to enjoy a strong support base in the Calangute constituency, where he is fighting BJP’s Joseph Sequeira, a former Calangute sarpanch who had supported Lobo in the 2012 assembly elections.

The other two opponents are AAP’s Sudesh Mayekar and TMC’s Anthony Menezes. There is also Ricardo D’Souza, co-owner of the iconic restaurant in Baga, Tito’s, who is contesting as an independent. D’Souza had met senior BJP leaders in both Goa and Delhi in a bid to acquire a BJP ticket, but things didn’t materialise.

Lobo and his wife, Delilah, are the richest candidates in the coastal state with assets worth Rs 92 crore each. Delilah is contesting from the Siolim constituency and a denial of Siolim ticket to her was part of the reason why, the BJP has claimed, Lobo quit the saffron party.

Lobo denies the charge vehemently. “That’s not true at all. Delilah has been a sarpanch of Parra Panchayat for five years. She has worked hard. Neither my wife nor I went to anyone in the BJP for a ticket,” he says. “I quit because the BJP is no longer the party that Manohar Parrikar (the late chief minister) had worked so hard to strengthen.”

Election watchers say the BJP is facing anti-incumbency in Goa, especially since the second Covid-19 wave in April-May last year. The impact of Lobo’s exit is likely to be felt in the poll results for the BJP, particularly in the seven key seats of Calangute.

“The BJP will not be able to secure more than nine seats this time. If I have to be generous, I’ll say 10 seats. But that’s about it. They are going to lose Bardez completely,” says the politician, whose switch to the Congress in January brought a new lease of life to the otherwise struggling party that has been facing massive defections and infighting.

Lobo tells us he has been an out and out “Manohar Parrikar boy” and was “handpicked” by him when he first became an MLA in 2012. “Parrikar always put people first. He taught me that it is development that must come first if you want to make it big in politics. People will vote for you once, but not the second time if you don’t give results.”

Lobo interacts with the voters in his constituency. (News18)

And even though development isn’t exactly visible in the narrow, kaccha bylanes of the Gauravaddo area where he is campaigning, he walks with confidence and greets people with an affable familiarity, the kind one displays when they are confident of the other person’s loyalty.

But has this loyalty been earned or bought? There are murmurs that Lobo has pumped in a lot more money this time than in the previous elections to make sure his wife also secures an easy win. But he insists that “if there is any money I have pumped in, it has been only for the development of Goa.”

People of Calangute seem to have reserved only two strong sentiments for their MLA. Most are in awe of him and the remaining ones are angry. One such woman comes fuming outside and confronts him about the absence of a water pipe which, she says, she has been asking for, for years. Lobo stands there listening, tries to pacify her and on realising it’s all in vain, makes a few calls. “Actually, it is her neighbour who was not allowing the waterpipe to pass through. I’ve spoken to him and he has agreed. We will get those pipes installed tomorrow,” he tells us. His aides hail it as “instant justice”.

Locals use a Konkani proverb to describe his fast and gradual rise in north Goa: ‘It’s better to be an ant and eat sugar than to be an elephant and break sugarcanes.’ “I have not left my touch with reality. I built my entire empire before stepping into politics. My first restaurant came up when I was 21. But I also saw very hard days. I washed dishes, worked as a waiter and repaired people’s houses,” Lobo says.

“This is why I understand people and their hardships,” he adds as he walks up to a balcao (a veranda with Portuguese architectural influence found in most Goan houses) with confidence, greets people and hands them the Congress pamphlets.

And it is with the same confidence and frankness that he admits he wants to become the chief minister of Goa. “Of course, I want to become the chief minister. I won’t settle for less.”

Although the Congress has kept its cards close to its chest and hasn’t named the chief ministerial candidate, the frontrunner for the position is Digambar Kamat, former chief minister who has been fielded from his home turf Margao in South Goa district. And Lobo understands this well.

He says, “You see, I am in no hurry. It is not like I will desert my party if they don’t make me the CM this time. But I also feel that I am deserving of it.”

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first published:February 11, 2022, 16:12 IST
last updated:March 24, 2022, 20:56 IST