Panaji: Like the proxy political battle over drugs in Punjab between the Akali Dal and the BJP, in Goa too the issue of narcotics and drug peddling is fast rousing political parties out of their post-New Year stupor.
Several U-turns by ruling party legislators and a minister appear to have exposed the will of the ruling BJP to take on the drug menace, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a battle against drugs in his radio address to the nation in December.
Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar, after declaring that he would shut down mega-scale EDM festivals if any suspicious activity or drugs were found at such events, lashed out at the deceased Isha Mantry, linking the death of the constume designer to binge-drinking, even before the post mortem examination.
"The Supersonic event shut down at 10 (p.m.). The incident happened at 11.30. What I know is that the girl was drinking alcohol till 11," Parulekar said, completely ruling out a drug overdose, as collectively alleged by the opposition.
Goa attracts three million tourists every year but is also known as a narco-tourism destination where drugs are available in plenty and cheap especially during the tourism season from October to March.
Not even Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and Civil Supplies Minister Dayanand Mandrekar, both of whom hail from tourism-savvy coastal constituencies, have escaped the accusations and counter-accusations.
After Congress spokesperson Sunil Kawthankar publicly alleged they had allowed drug trade to allegedly flourish in their constituencies, Parsekar had asked the Crime Branch to probe the allegations against him and his cabinet colleague.
Kawthankar, who was summoned by the Crime Branch late Monday, said that he has submitted a list of dealers and their phone numbers to the police.
"Mandrekar and Parsekar have been legislators of their areas for more than 17 years. There is heavy drug trade in their areas. Instead of calling those I have accused for questioning, they have summoned me for raising my voice against drugs," said Kawthankar, who also claimed he was under illegal police surveillance.
Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Micahel Lobo from Calangute constituency, which hosts the most popular beach stretch and night hotspots near Calangute, Candolim and Baga, claims that mainly Nigerians gangs are largely behind drug peddling, which has now led the Nationalist Congress Party to ask whether he was giving a clean chit to drug gangs.
"Every time he lashes out against Nigerian drug dealers, but not a word about the local drug dealers who operate in his constituency," NCP spokesperson Trajano D'Mello said.
More than year ago, a gang war between a Nigerian pusher outfit and native narcotics gangs spilled in the open on Oct 31 after a Nigerian was murdered, allegedly by local drug dealers.
Angry Nigerians then blockaded a national highway by dumping the body of their dead compatriot on it for several hours and even thrashed policemen trying to get them off the road.
Added to this, with the Goa government refusing to act on an explosive legislative committee report exposing a police-politician-mafia linkages involving a former home minister and a police officer, whether Prime Minister Modi's call for a war against drugs may actually be translated into action in BJP-ruled Goa remains a question.