Goa Congress manifesto mum on casinos

Panaji, Jan 29 (IANS) Less than a week after it upped the ante against offshore casinos, the Congress appears to have skipped its promise of doing away with the casinos altogether, from its manifesto for the Panaji bye-poll which was unveiled Thursday.

Both state Congress president Luizinho Faleiro and Surendra Furtado, the party candidate for Panaji, also dodged questions on whether the Congress poll campaign would accept donations from the controversial offshore casino industry.
The Panaji assembly seat was vacated by the then chief minister Manohar Parrikar after his elevation as the defence minister.
“I am giving you my word on it. We will get rid of the casinos,” Faleiro said when asked why the party has not mentioned in the official manifesto its earlier promise of doing away with the offshore casinos.
Goa has five operational offshore casinos and about 10 onshore casinos functioning from five-star hotels and resorts, which attract hundreds of thousands of gamblers to the state annually.
The glitzy casinos have become one of the major issues for the Feb 13 bye-poll, even as the Congress only last week claimed that it would expose the BJP’s double speak on the casino issue during its campaign.
The BJP, which has been opposing casinos for over seven years, in its election manifesto before the 2012 state assembly polls promised to do away with the casinos on the Mandovi river, off Panaji.
But after coming to power, it said that it would relocate the casinos to deeper seas off Goa after four years by 2016.
Chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar has now claimed on more occasions than one that doing away with casinos may not be such a good idea at all and that his BJP-led coalition government was open to renewal of licences.
While the Congress is vocal about its opposition to the casinos, both Faleiro as well as Furtado dodged queries on whether the party would accept donations from casino operators to fund their party campaign.
Faleiro, however, said that the party, instead of a high-pitch campaign launch, would instead start with a solemn candle-light march, which would pass by the river-fronted neon-lit offices of the offshore casino “as a reminder of the BJP’s failure to resolve the casino issue”.
While Furtado is contesting on behalf of the Congress, the BJP will be represented by Sidharth Kuncolienkar, Parrikar’s former political aide Two Independents are also in the fray.