Valmiki Naik was born, raised and educated in Goa. A Civil engineering graduate from the University of Pune, Valmiki went to the University of Texas, Austin, and completed his master’s program. After working in the corporate sector for almost 10 years, Valmiki returned to India to start his own business. After seeing the business models in US and going through entrepreneurship courses, Valmiki had a very rosy picture of the procedure involved in starting a business in India. He returned to India and joined his father’s construction firm. While working, Valmiki realized that, conducting business without corruption is very difficult in India. He was disappointed to see his hopes of doing honest business being washed away. He even gave a second thought about going back to US as it was worthless to fight the corrupt system in India. He wanted to work hard with honesty.
IAC Movement: The Turning Point
While Valmiki was deciding his future journey, a new movement was building in India, i.e. India Against Corruption (IAC). He started following the movement. A profile that caught his attention and impressed him the most was that of Arvind Kejriwal’s. It was very natural for Valmiki to understand Arvind Kejriwal and his vision for a new India. He increased his participation with the movement and moved to Delhi. He witnessed all the ups and downs during the movement. Valmiki was also one of founding members of AAP. After AAP was born, Valmiki decided to fight the system by being a part of it.
Why We Need to be a Part of the System?
As an individual and a part of a group, we tried activism, hunger strikes, dharnas, protests and engaging with the political establishments. Nothing worked out. We can protest as much as we want, we can scream as much as we want; on the contrary, political establishment will be happy if we die while on a hunger strike. After trying everything, a bunch of IAC members decided to bring a change by being a part of the system and AAP was born. Valmiki followed a similar path and joined hands with Arvind Kejriwal and other members of the IAC movement.
Though Valmiki’s father was associated with BJP when it was establishing as an alternative political party during the emergency period, he never fought for an electoral position or brought politics to his home. Valmiki’s father distanced himself from BJP after few years. Since the age of 17-18, Valmiki was away from home, busy in completing his education. He was pretty much insulated from Indian politics and Indian businesses.
“Valmiki had no political ambition and had no political experience, specially for Indian politics which is complicated, dirty and no one wants to be a part of it. Valmiki hate politics and that’s why he joined the politics because this is the only way to change it.”
AAP’s Journey in Goa
Valmiki moved to Goa after AAP’s formation and started building the organization. Goa is a small state with 40 state and 2 parliamentary assembly seats. After 2014 parliamentary elections, AAP also fought Goa assembly elections in 2017. Unfortunately, AAP could not win any seat and stood third in terms of vote share. Now, AAP Goa is gearing up for 2022 Goa assembly elections, 2019 parliamentary elections on both seats and Goa assembly by-elections. Elvis Gomes is AAP candidate from South Goa and Pradeep Padgaonkar from North Goa.
AAP: An Outsider’s Party?
As AAP was formed out of the movement which was centered around Delhi, it had good connectivity with Hindi and Punjabi speaking population. It was also a strong alternative in Delhi and Punjab. AAP’s expansion to other states was quite challenging, therefore, the AAP Goa team needed help from people in other states. During 2017 assembly elections, people from Delhi, Punjab and other parts of India went to Goa for campaigning. They were creating a buzz in favour of AAP. After seeing the overwhelming response to AAP in Goa, leaders from existing political parties started propagating the fear that “outsiders are taking over Goa”. Goa is a small state and people are very protective of its identity, culture and local languages. Goans, who are already scared that Goa is taken over by outsiders in terms of real estate investment by the people from Mumbai, Delhi and other cities in India, fell for the fear trap.
Valmiki and his team tried their best to explain to Goans that AAP is a small party, more likely a bunch of activists, who frequently require support from volunteers in other states, to spread the message. However, this approach did not sit well with the local Goans, who live in a comparatively small state with a totally different language. During door-to-door campaigns, AAP volunteers talked about good governance, public policy, education and health. Following AAP volunteers, there were BJP and Congress volunteers, whose job was to mis-inform people by telling them that AAP volunteers are liars and outsiders. Because AAP was new to the state and did not have established local leaders in a way similar to other parties, people fell for the propaganda spread by BJP and congress.
Elvis Gomes has a good image in Goa with 20 years of administrative experience. But, he came into the picture very late. Just 2 months before voting, Elvis joined AAP, but by then, the damage was already done.
Valmiki Naik for Panaji By-Elections
After learning an important lesson from 2017, Valmiki, Elvis and other AAP leaders in Goa are continuously building AAP’s organization in Goa. The team is preparing for 2022 Goa assembly elections. After the unfortunate death of Manohar Parrikar (former Chief Minister of Goa), Panaji assembly seat became vacant and Goans will be voting for it on May 19th. Valmiki Naik is AAP candidate from Panaji assembly constituency.
Sworn-in Affidavit: A New Initiative from Valmiki
Switching parties is a new trend among elected representatives. They jump from one political party to another, betraying voters’ mandate. Voters vote for a candidate based on his/her credentials, and/or according to the ideology of their party. After the elections, voters are never consulted while their elected representative switch sides. In order to deal with this situation and maintain the trust of voters, Valmiki came up with a solution in terms of an affidavit. On a Rs 50 stamp paper, Valmiki sworn to his voters that he will neither join BJP, nor support a BJP-led government (this initiative came when a large number of independent candidates and candidates from other parties joined/supported BJP after a campaign followed by winning against BJP). If Valmiki is found violating his promise, people of Goa can file for perjury proceedings against him.
Valmiki’s Manifesto for Panaji
Whether it is governance, welfare policies, campaigns and donations, AAP has always been able to establish new and innovative narratives. After AAP won in Delhi, people are more aware of the “manifesto” and have started keeping a copy to ask questions, when their elected (or new) representatives come back seeking their votes for the next elections. Based on feedbacks from local residents of Panaji, Valmiki and his team have prepared a manifesto for Panaji. Valmiki’s vision for Panaji is four-fold:
1. BEAUTIFUL, PROSPEROUS PANAJI
AAP’s main aim is to transition towards a casino-free economy for the city. By protecting and promoting its existing natural, built, and cultural heritage, AAP will create a “Clean Tourism” model. Panaji will be rebranded as “India’s most beautiful capital city”.
2. GREEN, WALKABLE PANAJI
Panaji will be made a pedestrian-friendly city again, as its original designers intended it to be. Major focus will be given to the sustainability of water bodies such as St. Inez Creek, Mala lake and the Mandovi river. Climate change and the impact of rise in sea-level will also be considered in long-term planning.
3. MODERN, PROGRESSIVE PANAJI
For AAP, the term “development” goes beyond physical infrastructure. It will aim to achieve a holistic development in all sections of the society, especially economically backward sections, women, senior citizens, differently-abled etc. AAP’s focus will be on improving the social and institutional infrastructure for all, to achieve fairness and eliminate inequality.
4. SMART, EFFICIENT PANAJI
AAP will make Panaji a better place to live in, do business in, and visit by ensuring the quality of a basic physical infrastructure such as water, electricity, parking, traffic management etc. People’s participation and oversight will be sought in policy-making decisions through the concept of “Ward Sabhas”, wherein all elected representatives and government officials will appear together before the public every six months to hear their grievances and resolve issues, with transparency and without inefficiency.
In addition to the above long-term vision, a detailed specific short-term proposal for the six main zones of Panaji is also explained in AAP Goa manifesto. Overall, the goal is to strengthen the social, physical, institutional and economic infrastructure of Panaji to bring it to the Top 10 list of “Ease of Living” index of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. Currently, Panaji stands at 90th position among 111 cities in India.