Yes, that is Digamber Vasant Kamat. But Digamberbab is all this and much more.
On the occasion of his 62nd birthday, I venture a small peep into his past which propelled him into a successful political career. It actually started with sports. He played badminton well and was regarded to have excellent organisational skills. This led to him being involved in several social and sports organisations including the Goa Badminton Association, Rotaract Club of Margao, Samrat club of Margao, Sparkling Stars Association, Model Education Society, Margao Cricket Club, Damodar Education Society, among many others. His dedication and sincerity while working in the social field was recognised and appreciated by his seniors and peers. His interactions with all sections of society during this period of his life exposed him to their problems.
Fired with the idea of working for the upliftment of the underprivileged and realising that political patronage can lend an advantage, he decided to take the plunge into electoral politics. His first public elections were the Margao Municipal Council elections in 1985. He won and was part of one the best councils Margao has had. After his debut as a councillor, he faced a setback in 1989 when he lost his first assembly elections but he continued doing good work for the people of Margao. His good work was rewarded in 1994 which saw him being elected as Margao’s MLA, which he has been since then till today.
After being first sworn in as a minister in 1999, he became Chief Minister of Goa in 2007. It was a proud moment for each and every Madgaonkar. During his tenure as Chief Minister, Madgaon did gain a lot. Some landmark works that were taken up and executed then are:
Digamberbab has, during his 22 years as Margao’s MLA, worked tirelessly for the city, bringing to our doorstep innumerable development works. Starting from 1994, when as a brand-new MLA, he introduced to Margao the concept of ‘hot mix’ on the city’s roads, his stint as Power Minister was a period during which the needs and convenience of the consumer was given top priority. He introduced mobile transformers to ensure power supply even in case of transformer failure and mobile vans to attend to complaints throughout the day. 24-hour call centres were set up in each city, but Margao received special emphasis. It is the only city in Goa with 4 inter-connected sub-stations which practically eliminated power interruptions. The work of illuminating roads and underground cabling has been most extensively done in Margao. As Urban Development Minister, he simplified procedures in all municipal councils to benefit the common man. Constitution of citizen committees ensured their participation in identifying key projects to be taken up. The vision of e-governance and citizen facilitation centres was brought to Goa by him in collaboration with the Kalyan-Dombivli Mahanagarpalika, and though the idea has not been fully developed by his successors, citizens are benefitted greatly even by the partial implementation of his ideas. However one of his main achievement as the Urban Development Minister was shifting of the wholesale and retail fish and vegetable market from behind the municipal building to the new SGPDA market complex without any law and order problem.
The Ana Fonte garden, which boasts of the only musical fountain in Goa and neighbouring districts of other states, and the Railway Overbridge at Khareband, which was possible only because of Digamberbab’s personal intervention with the Konkan Railway top brass, are just two examples of how he made the near impossible possible. Another example of his vision for the future of Margao is the Master Balancing Reservoir, with a total capacity of 18000 m3, which has been a solution for all of Margao’s water woes.
As Chief Minister of the state, his tenure of a full 5 years, though marked by a couple of phases of uncertainty, was most stable for its larger part. He was the most accessible Chief Minister and was always available to the common man. His unassuming nature was reflected in the fact that he would personally answer each and every call on his cellphone, even at the rarest of hours. Many of the projects for Margao that he backed, as CM and otherwise, like the sewerage scheme, sub-way and 3 small over bridges for 2-wheelers and many others were conceptualised with the needs of the common man as the focus. His concern for development of the arts was evident from his insistence and push in setting up the Tiatro Academy and conceiving film finance schemes through the ESG. He visualised a state-of-the-art district hospital for South Goa and an ultra-modern Bus Terminus for Margao, which unfortunately have not yet materialised, but Digamberbab is confident that he will see them completed soon. He has achieved much more than the above list, but Digamberbab-the politician recedes into the background when one considers Digamberbab-the human being.
I have known him personally for ages, since my college days, and have always been proud to associate with him. As a human being, his approach to others has not changed a bit despite his political successes. He is endowed with intellect, and in his various roles as social worker, businessman, politician, etc, etc, he has been successful. But I have always wondered as to what is that that makes him so likeable? I have thought hard and long, and realized that it is his supreme quality of reaching out to anyone and everyone through his humility, a quality which is actually so innate and within each of us, but which tends to be overpowered by ego and one-upmanship. Digamberbab remains humble, easy to approach and extremely pleasant. Anybody who has met him will vouch for this.
He has always greeted people with a smile. His approach, to everybody, is always respectful and his willingness to listen and discuss in detail is amazing. Every Madgaonkar, even his fiercest critic, will agree that it is these qualities that make him connect to them. He has friends across the board. Even his political opponents remain his friends at a personal level. His affability has earned him friends throughout the country and the respect that he commands in political and bureaucratic circles is unbelievable. It is probably the genuine respect that he has for others that works wonders.
Digamberbab is a devout Hindu, god-fearing to the core, but a truly secular Hindu. He has never discriminated in his public life and dealings on the basis of either religion, caste or any other criterion. For him, religion is a fiercely personal matter, and he does not believe in forcing his beliefs onto anybody else. His ability to participate and share with others their moments of happiness and also to be with them in their moments of grief is unmatched. His family has probably missed him a lot because of his social and political commitments, but he is a very devoted husband and father.
His knowledge of administration, which he has drawn and retained from his experience in various capacities during his political career, is something that has always made me hold him in high respect. He is practically an encyclopaedia when it comes to government rules and regulations and matters of governance.
I have always wondered as to what makes him tick. Probably a vision for the city that he feels is an integral part of him. Probably, also, an overriding concern for fellow human beings and a burning desire to help as many as he can.
One incident always comes back to me whenever I meet him. It was nearing eleven at night and we, a group of citizens of Margao, had just finished a meeting with Shri Digamber Kamat, Chief Minister of Goa, about certain issues of the city. He was obviously very tired, after a long and hard day and was keen to retire early as he was leaving early next morning for Delhi. He has set his cellphone to silent for the meeting and he now picked it up and looked at the missed call list, of which a couple of the numbers were unknown to him. He wanted to call them up when one of the group asked him why he was taking the trouble to call an unknown person. The CM of the state said, “It could very well be a call for help from somebody in some corner of the state. As his CM and as a human being I cannot ignore a call for help from another human being.”