On 19 December 2016, the chief minister of Delhi and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal named Elvis Gomes the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the forthcoming legislative elections in Goa. Gomes is a veteran bureaucrat in the state government who was serving as the inspector general for prisons. Before taking voluntary retirement earlier this year, he also held an additional charge as the urban development secretary. Previously, he had served as the director of municipal administration and tourism and the managing director of the Goa Housing Board, an autonomous body responsible for providing housing facilities in the state.
But four days after being Kejriwal’s announcement, at a press conference in Panjim called by the AAP to discuss its plans for state welfare schemes, Gomes seemed an embattled figure. That day, the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau had summoned him for questioning in relation to a five-year-old land scam case involving more than 30,000 square metres of land in Madgaon. The ACB had charged Gomes with cheating and criminal conspiracy, alleging that, in his capacity as managing director of the Housing Board, he had acquired land, converted the land zone from orchard to settlement, and then returned it to the owner. A day earlier, the Bharatiya Janata Party had filed complaints against the AAP, before the Goa director general of police and the chief electoral officer. The BJP alleged that the AAP’s hoardings in the state insinuated that the Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar was dishonest.
After the press conference, Ajachi Chakrabarti, an independent journalist, spoke to the chief ministerial candidate. They discussed the challenges that Gomes expected to face in the upcoming assembly elections, the promises that the AAP has made to voters, the allegations against him concerning the land scam, and the issues that he would have to address if elected.
Ajachi Chakrabarti: In India, it is always a tall order for a new political party to seize power in its first electoral foray in a state. How confident are you of becoming the next chief minister of Goa, and what do you base your confidence upon?
Elvis Gomes: Aam Aadmi Party is confident of forming the next government. That is because of the disenchantment with the present dispensation, that is, the BJP and earlier, the Congress. What has happened is that in 2012, riding on the sentiments of the people who were frustrated with the Congress regime, the BJP made tall promises and came to power. None of those have been fulfilled. Several U-turns have been taken on major issues, and therefore, now there is an alternative before the people. As I said [at the press conference], people have woken up [to the AAP] a little slowly, but now they have really woken up. The turning point was the last meeting of Mr Kejriwal held [on 19 December] in south Goa, in Cuncolim. You could see from the response that people have decided now to go for a change.