Former Indian tennis legend Leander Paes takes to the streets of Goa to understand people’s plight ahead of the national elections in February-March next year as he enters a new phase in his life as a politician of the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Her day starts early with meetings to decide how the day will go, followed by a campaign day with her partner Kim Sharma.
âIt was incredible. The welcome I was lucky enough to receive was that of being a son of the soil when we went to Velim, Tolleacanto, Assolna (the village where Paes Vece Paes’s father is from) or when we are came here to Calangute or Candolim. They all start by saying how wonderful it was to have a son of the earth come back to make a difference, âsays Paes, speaking as he is led from house to house.
It was his first dive into politics and he is being guided by a 20+ group of IPAC (Indian Political Action Committee) who continue to adjust their schedule while trying to get as many commitments as possible.
Some days he’s busy going door-to-door, meeting and greeting village chiefs and influential locals, in addition to posing for photos and playing soccer with local boys.
Over the past few days, Paes has met former Olympic hockey player Selma D’Silva, Tallulah BraganÃ§a, a renowned athlete with multiple medals, Agnelo Barreto an RTI activist, Jude Souza Lobo, a restaurateur, the fighter of freedom Cyriaco Dias, social activist Savio Lopes and many others.
âI served the country for 30 years playing tennis. I have traveled the world and tried to bring laurels to our flag and our people. But now that I have retired from tennis. My sole aim is to bring a better quality of life to our people and to bring a sense of peace to society and a sense of harmony. Where we as Indians and we as Goans are one, regardless of religion or caste, we are one community, âsays Paes
His plunge into politics, he says, received a âmixed reactionâ from his family. âIt’s amazing how everyone has a point of view on politics. I’ve heard pretty much everything, âhe says.
As Paes questions the TMC’s plans for Goa, it immediately becomes clear that reservations about when the party will enter Goa politics abound. People want to know if the party is aiming to split the anti-BJP vote and if it will shut down and back down after the defeat, as it did in 2012.
Paes responds with his party’s pledge to “never compromise” with the BJP, to “never become” like Congress, and to deal with Goa’s problems no matter what.
To those who ask where was he all those years to emerge as a political party a few months before the election, Paes has a simple answer.
âI think there are so many Goans and so many Indians who have left our roots to run our business, to practice our professions for a living. But we never leave our roots in our hearts and minds. Could I have come ten years ago? Could I have come five years ago? Could I have come six months ago? May be. But the fact that I’m here now is what matters, âhe says.
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During his athletic career, his hard work and patriotic fervor stood out as much as his accomplishments. He tells people that he brings the same qualities to politics now.
âI think there is a time and place for everything. And I’ve been very lucky in my life to be in the right place at the right time. I am very fortunate as a son of the soil of India to bring laurels to our country. And if I am given the right opportunity and a platform … I would like to use my broad shoulders to give a better quality of life to my own people here in Goa, âhe adds.
While Paes exudes charm, some of those he interacted with remained skeptical.
âThey (TMC) speak the right language but have yet to grasp the intricacies of Goa politics and prove that they are really there in order to defeat BJP. They have to choose and support the right candidates, âsaid one person, who declined to be cited. âThere are several problems that affect the inhabitants they [TMC] does not seem to have fully understood, âhe added.
âWe appreciate Paes for all the laurels he’s brought to the country, but politics is a different ball game. I don’t think it had much of an impact. He didn’t come to Goa even during his playing days and now, suddenly before the elections, he’s here, âsays Michael Beny da Costa, a resident of Velim, where the ancestral Paes family is from, and a candidate from the constituency of Velim.
âAthletes don’t usually do well in politics. Even Mauricio Afonso, a popular footballer and former captain of India, has already been portrayed as a popular politician, but he too has had no impact, ârecalls da Costa.
Neshwin Almeida, who has his roots in the village but now lives in the town of Margao, said Paes’s entry would attract attention but may have little impact on the party’s ultimate chances in the election.
“The constituency of Velim made up of the villages of Assolna, Ambelim, Velim, Tollecanto, Chinchinim, Sarzora is surely proud of his feat in 1996 of winning an Olympic bronze, but Leander has never recognized his Goan ancestors in the past and has preferred to be known as Kolkata. boy or Bombay boy. In fact, Leander is best known for his tennis club in the United States and his visits to the White House to meet Obama as captain of the Washington Kastles ” , said Almeida.
âBringing him to Velim will cause more insecurity among voters than a stranger is imposed on the constituency. Getting an athlete to shake hands with children, greet fishermen and interact for two hours cannot win you polls, his infantrymen who always win polls, âhe adds.
So, is Paes going to run for office in Goa?
âI am growing every day and every day I learn something new. We assess the situation daily and if the party decides that I should challenge, then I am ready, âhe said.