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Warring Goa leaders to patch up over a drink


Panaji, October 9 (IANS): Instead of an olive branch, two political friends-turned-foes in recent times, former Deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai and Garbage Management Minister Michael Lobo have decided to resolve their differences over Goa's biggest open garbage dump at Sonsoddo, over a drink, in trademark Goan style.

 

Sardesai and Lobo, both of whom are known for their outspoken comments, swanky lifestyles and for their bitter war of words over mismanagement of the garbage dump, have both promised to come together over a drink to settle their differences.

 

Sardesai, who is known to possess an envious collection of single malts at his palatial mansion in South Goa's Davondem village, on Tuesday, made overtures via public stage, inviting Lobo for a "nice drink" to discuss their differences.

 

"Michael is no stranger to my residence. With Navratri and Dussehra over, I invite Michael to my residence and will offer him a nice drink if that helps to resolve the Sonsoddo issue," Sardesai said, while addressing a function organised on occasion of Dussehra on Tuesday.

 

The inability of the state government as well as a private waste management agency to treat garbage at Sonsoddo, in South Goa, has raised health concerns in the nearby area. In May, the garbage dump had started emitting smoke due to a fire triggered by combustible methane gas pockets in the dump.

 

Last month, Lobo had visited the site with a team of officials of the Solid Waste Management Corporation and other civic officials to examine the dump and find ways to tackle the menace, but he was booed by Sardesai and his followers.

 

Sardesai heads the Goa Forward party, which has pulled out its support from the BJP-led coalition government in Goa, but continues to back the National Democratic Alliance's pan-India network.

 

Reacting to Sardesai's overture, Lobo on Wednesday, acknowledged the public invitation, but also added a rider.

 

"It is a manner of speaking in Konkani. When one says, let us sit over a drink. it could be a coffee, it could be a (alcoholic) drink also. I don't drink everyday. On occasion we drink. So he was upset with me. Now he is calling me for a drink. I don't mind going for a drink to his place or in Margao or anywhere," said Lobo, who is an elected legislator from the Calangute Assembly constituency, known as the party capital of the state on account of its popular beaches and night clubs.

 

While alcohol is routinely consumed in Goa thanks to centuries of Portuguese colonial influence and a liberal excise regime, Sardesai's attempt to break bread with his former 'friend' over a "drink" is rare in the coastal state's popular political discourse.

 

Sardesai and Lobo fell out after the Deputy Chief Minister was dropped from the BJP-led coalition government in July this year, as Lobo played a crucial role in splitting the Congress and luring 10 Congress MLAs into the BJP fold, rendering the support of Sardesai's Goa Forward party redundant in the legislative numbers game.

 

Lobo, who had been critical of the government over the last few months, was later inducted into the state Cabinet as Garbage Management Minister.

 

 

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