Goa: BJP fields businesswoman of Dempo Group, which gave it Rs 50 lakh EBs

South Goa candidate Pallavi Dempo’s husband Shrinivas is chairman of the popular Goan business house — and contributed another Rs 50 lakh

File photo of Pallavi Dempo (X/@bibidempo)
File photo of Pallavi Dempo (X/@bibidempo)

NH Political Bureau

In what is being termed a wild card entry, Goan entrepreneur and daughter-in-law of the well-respected Dempo business family, Pallavi Dempo joined the BJP and secured its South Goa ticket for the Lok Sabha elections within hours.

Since the candidacy announcement was delayed, speculation was rife that the BJP might opt for a woman candidate to underscore its ‘Nari Shakti’ slogan after the state unit's suggested candidates did not find favour with the ruling party's central election committee chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  

Pallavi Dempo, the executive director of Dempo Industries Ltd and a trustee of Dempo Charities Trust, holds oversight over the media and real estate segments within the group’s business portfolio. She is married to Shrinivas Dempo, the chairman of the Dempo Group of Companies. Recent disclosures from electoral bond data reveal that Shrinivas Dempo, in January 2022, personally purchased electoral bonds totalling Rs 1.25 crore, just ahead of Assembly elections in Goa. Notably, Rs 50 lakh worth of these bonds were redeemed by the BJP.

Additionally, various entities under the Dempo Group — including Dempo Industries Pvt Ltd, Goa Carbon Ltd, Devashri Nirman LLP and Navhind Papers and Publications — collectively procured bonds amounting to Rs 1.1 crore between 2019 and 2024. Of this sum, Rs 50 lakh was also redeemed by the BJP, a report in the Indian Express said.

The Dempo business house is the leading corporate group of Goa, its modern-era business operations having commenced in 1941. Originally rooted in the mining sector, the Dempo Group has since expanded into real estate, food processing, shipbuilding, newspaper publishing (Navhind Times in English and Navaprabha in Marathi) and calcined petroleum coke businesses.

The Dempo Group also has business interests in Gujarat through Modest Infrastructure Pvt Ltd since 2012. The company, with operations in Bhavnagar is a subsidiary of Dempo Shipbuilding & Engineering Pvt Ltd. and is a fully functioning premier vessel construction and repair company. The company was set up when Prime Minister Modi was the Gujarat chief minister.  

Interestingly, in May 2022, the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case registered against one Sanjay Vijay Shinde, had raided the offices of his then-employer V.S. Dempo Holdings Pvt Ltd, Goa, and the premises of RPM Sonic Adventures & Caravan Resorts in Bhopal.

Shinde's name figured in the Panama Papers Leak case, in which the names of various individuals who had beneficial interests in various offshore entities were revealed. 

After her name was officially announced, Pallavi Dempo formally joined the BJP at the party's Panaji office on 24 March 2024. Her induction ceremony was graced by Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant, BJP state president Sadanand Shet Tanavade and other dignitaries in Panaji.

The names that did not find favour with the Delhi bosses include Chandrakant Kavlekar, the former Congress leader of the Opposition who became deputy chief minister after joining the BJP in the last assembly (however, he lost the subsequent elections), and former MP and long-time karyakarta Narendra Sawaikar.

The South Goa constituency, which is currently held by the Congress' Francisco Sardinha, encompasses 20 Assembly segments and has a significant Christian population. Historically, it has been a Congress stronghold, with the party securing victory 10 times while the BJP has won it only twice, in 1999 and 2014.

Other notable contenders for the constituency from the BJP — such as former chief minister Digambar Kamat and Assembly Speaker Ramesh Tawadkar — had already withdrawn from the race earlier, informing their respective parties of their disinterest in contesting the upcoming elections. Political pundits termed this as a sign of the party finding it extremely difficult to find a winnable candidate from within its own ranks.

In the past week, both chief minister Sawant and the state BJP president Tanawade seemed to be taking a new line, to wit: “the lotus is important, not the candidate”. Tanawade was quoted by the local media as saying, “The party will seek votes on the lotus symbol and the candidate could be anybody, man or woman.”

The North Goa ticket has been given to sitting MP and union minister of state Shripad Naik.

Congress leader of the Opposition Yuri Alemao termed the nomination of Pallavi Dempo a “clear reflection of helplessness of the state BJP leadership before dictators in Delhi.”  

Meanwhile, the Congress is expected to declare its candidates in Goa soon too. The Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and Goa Forward Party are fighting the Lok Sabha elections jointly here.

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