Organisations fighting for the resumption of mining in Goa have claimed that suspension of iron ore extraction activities in the state will impact the ruling BJP's chances in the Lok Sabha polls.
The coastal state has two Lok Sabha seats, North Goa and South Goa, both of which have several talukas where distraught mining dependents are in sizable numbers, these outfits have pointed out. Both the seats are currently held by the BJP.
The mining operations, a key source of revenue to the government, came to a standstill in March last year following a Supreme Court order which quashed 88 mining leases. Some outfits, like the Goa Mining People's Front, are miffed with the BJP-led Goa and central governments over the mining operations still lying suspended in the state.
GMPF representatives earlier met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amnit Shah and Union Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, seeking their help to amend the existing mining laws so that leases could get extended. GMPF chief Puti Gaonkar said, "We will not tell people whom to vote for but we have made it clear that we will ask people to vote against the BJP."
"During the 2017 Assembly polls, we asked people to vote for the BJP, but not this time," GMPF core committee member Laxmikant Sawant Desai said. There are around 10 Assembly constituencies spread over both the Lok Sabha seats which are affected by mining suspension. The voters from these constituencies could make a sizable impact in elections, said Kishor Karbotker, president of the Sesa Workers Association.
The association is part of the union representing employees of Vedanta, one of the biggest mining firms in Goa. Meanwhile, BJP state chief and Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Tendulkar said his party has made efforts for the resumption of mining in the state. "The matter is under the purview of the judiciary and is taking time. It is not that the party has not made any efforts. We are working on it," he said.
He expressed confidence that those affected by mining suspension would continue to support the BJP as earlier. The Congress, meanwhile, believes it will get votes of the mining dependents as it claims to have worked to resolve the issue. Goa Congress chief Girish Chodankar said, "Our party has always been with the mining dependents and will never let them down.
These people have realised that the BJP has been lying on the issue." The Shiv Sena and the Goa Suraksha Manch, led by former RSS leader Subhash Velingkar, have also demanded that the mining activities be resumed in the state. The BJP has fielded sitting MPs Shripad Naik and Narendra Sawaikar from North Goa and South Goa, respectively. Besides, Chodankar is Congress' candidate from North Goa and former MP Francisco Sardinha from South Goa.
The Sena has fielded its Goa unit chief Jitesh Kamat from North Goa and its vice president Rakhi Prabhudesai Naik from South Goa. Voting for the two Lok Sabha seats and three Assembly bypolls in the coastal state will be held on April 23.