Amid all the hectic government formation developments in Mumbai, Dodamarg, a remote sub district of Maharashtra located on its southern border with Goa has become the subject of a controversy in Goa’s politics.
With fresh revelations of Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s purchase of large tracts of land in Dodamarg and a soft clamour for a merger from local villagers of the tehsil into Goa — who have alleged neglect by the Maharashtra administration — the issue has taken centrestage in Goa’s politics.
The controversy arose last week, when sale deed documents related to Sawant’s purchase of three tracts of land in Dodamarg, located in Maharashtra’s Sindhudurg district, which borders Goa, emerged on social media. Sawant has purchased 17,800 sq mts and 3,200 sq mts for Rs 14 lakh and Rs 36 lakh, respectively, his election affidavit filed ahead of the 2017 Assembly polls revealed.
Sawant has defended the purchase of land in Dodamarg, saying the deals were done legitimately and the money was paid from his bank account. “There is nothing to hide. The money was paid from my bank account and the land is in my name,” Sawant said.
The Chief Minister also said that he was against the merger of Dodamarg with Goa.
Sawant was forced to make a statement on his real estate interest in the Maharashtra sub district, after Goa Forward party president Vijai Sardesai accused Sawant of making attempts to merge Dodamarg into Goa to add value to his real estate.
“By merging Dodamarg with Goa, the CM is trying to add value to his real estate portfolio in Dodamarg,” Sardesai said, even as a few residents of Dodamarg last week demanded a merger with Goa, accusing the Maharashtra government of neglecting their region’s needs.
“The Shiv Sena opposes the demand for merger of Dodamarg with Goa. This is a political ploy by Sawant because he has invested in real estate here,” Dodamarg Shiv Sena chief Baburao Dhuri said, opposing the demand made by a few local youth from Dodamarg.
Known for the Tillari dam project, Dodamarg tehsil has 53 villages and is nestled in the Western Ghats, with its borders shared with Goa and Karnataka.
According to historian Prajal Sakhardande, Dodamarg was once a part of Goa, until a treaty signed by Goan king Raja Soundekar with the Portuguese in the 1700s led to the region being a part of the Sawantwadi province run by the Bhonsle dynasty.
“After Raja Soundekar’s treaty with the Portuguese, the territory was left out and was taken over by the rulers of the Bhonsle dynasty in Sawantwadi. Many Goans still have their ancestral homes in Dodamarg, whose people are more attached to Goa culturally,” Sakhardande said.
In the past, residents of Karnataka’s sub districts of Karwar and Joida have also demanded a merger with Goa.