SETBACK: A hollow victory for Manohar Parrikar who got less than 50 per cent of the total vote strength and a much lower margin than Vishwajit Rane in Valpoi

Manohar Parrikar may have won the Panjim seat for the sixth time. But he got less than 50 per cent of the total of 22,000 votes in the Constituency. Moreover his margin of victory has been the lowest ever since 1994 when he won the Panjim Assembly seat for the first time

By rajan narayan

PERHAPS the outcome of the bye-elections to the Panjim Assembly constituency was inevitable. It was too much to expect Girish Chodankar to combat the combination of Manohar Parrikar and Babush Monserrate. It was too much to expect Chodankar to win in the face of all the money and muscle power that the BJP used to win the election. Manohar Parrikar who finally won the election by a much reduced margin of 4,803 votes used every weapon in his arsenal to ensure that he would retain the Panjim assembly seat for the 6th time. The seat he had won first in 1994 and subsequently four consecutive times in 1999, 2002, 2007 and 2012.

In the bye-election held in 2014, when Manohar Parrikar responded to Narendra Modi’s demand that he should take over the Defence Ministry, Sidharth Kuncalienker filled in for the superman. It was not a coincidence that Parrikar decided to nominate his trusted confidant and a fellow Saraswat to keep the seat warm for him. From the manner in which Manohar Parrikar functioned as Defence Minister it was clear he hated Delhi and missed Goa. The joke was that the Raksha Mantri was defending the country not from the national capital but from the capital of Goa, Panjim.

Every weekend and very often during the week, Parrikar was back in Goa for his favourite xitt kodii and ros omelette at Alankar theatre in Mapusa. It was clear that Parrikar had never reconciled himself to a long term career in national politics and had decided to return to Goa at the earliest opportunity. Parrikar knew that when the time came the super loyal Sidharth Kuncalienker would vacate the seat for him.

Even in 2014 it was clear that the voters of Panjim had started losing confidence in the superman — the Chief Minister who projected himself as the greatest. The most honest. The most efficient. The most dedicated. The most hardworking. Who had zero tolerance for corruption. Who had promised to transform Panjim into modern developed city on par with the best in the world. Parrikar did not talk about converting Panjim into Singapore like Babush  Monserrate will do. But clearly from the obsession with making Panjim the permanent venue for IFFI and all the beautification projects he undertook, it was clear that he wanted Panjim to be the jewel in the crown of Goa.

CONTAINED: This time around the Saraswats and the RSS workers supported Parrikar despite the Suraksha Manch putting up a strong candidate

Unfortunately by 2014 which was 20 years after he first got elected to the Legislative Assembly from Panjim in 1994, everyone, not just the little boy, had realised that the emperor was naked. That none of the promises Parrikar had made had been fulfilled. That even the garbage dump which had served Panjim before he became an MLA had been destroyed by him when he permitted the Mapusa garbage to be dumped at Curca. By 2014 voters of Panjim had realised that Parrikar was big on talk but virtually zero on delivery. There was no sign of even a garbage dump, let alone a modern waste treatment plant like the one Michael Lobo, the Calangute MLA, pushed through in three years. Even in 2017, 14 years after Panjim became the permanent venue for IFFI, there is no dedicated infrastructure. The opening and closing ceremony which used to be held in temporary air-condition tents, have been shifted to the Shyam Prakash Mukerjee Sport Stadium for the last two years.  

The new Patto bridge that Parrikar built had developed cracks. The concretisation of the Dona Paula Miramar bypass road was a disaster. The bypass is still full of potholes and has no lights at night as they are still on their way from France. The worst damage Parrikar inflicted on the capital of Goa was the destruction of the Mandovi river. When he first became the chief minister in 2000 there was only one casino in the Mandovi River. In 2017 there are five casinos in the river and one casino right on Miramar beach.

The dissolution had started by the middle of Parrikar’s third term as chief minister. So when the 2014 bye-election came Parrikar was extremely nervous about whether his substitute Sidharth would win the election. Particularly in the light of the fact that Babush Monserrate had decided to contest the elections against him. As Parrikar did in 2002 to save his tottering government, he again turned to Babush Monserrate. Parrikar entered into a setting with Babush to ensure a comfortable victory for Sidharth in the bye-election held in 2014 when Parrikar had to resign his Panjim seat when he became the Defence Minister of the country. In fact Parrikar is yet to resign his membership of the Rajya Sabha to which he was elected from Uttar Pradesh.

In the 2017 election, an angry Babush who had been arrested and humiliated on a charge of rape decided he would take on Sidharth in the Assembly elections. At that stage Parrikar had not decided to return to Goa as chief minister. The falling popularity of Parrikar and the disappointment of voters of Panjim including members of his own community was reflected in the very narrow margin with which Sidharth won the 2017 elections. Babush was defeated by a margin of just a thousand votes. He perhaps would have scraped through if the RSS had not split the vote. But the results of the 2017 Assembly elections was a clear vote of no confidence against Manohar Parrikar.

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) which on its own had won 21 seats in the 2012 election managed to get the only 13 seats in the 2017 election. Sidharth Kuncalienker, the surrogate of Parrikar, may have scraped through, but the Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and other senior leaders of the BJP lost. The causalities included senior BJP leaders Rajendra Arlekar and Dayanand Mandrekar not to mention Dilip Parulekar. Even of the 13 seats that the BJP secured in the 2017 election seven were because of the individual popularity of the Catholic candidates who contested on the BJP ticket.

The results came as a shock to Parrikar. It came as an even greater shock to senior BJP leaders like the party President Amit Shah who had expected that the BJP would sweep the elections and may be even get a two-thirds majority as in Uttar Pradesh. This is because Manohar Parrikar had projected himself as invincible. Moreover Parrikar was considered among the tallest leaders in the BJP which is why he was given the prestigious Defence Ministry. Narendra Modi had a personal stake in the victory and the humiliation of Parrikar as it was the Goa chief minister who had consistently supported Narendra Modi. It was at the Goa convention that Narendra Modi was permitted to continue as Gujarat chief minister after the post Godra riots. It was at the convention of the BJP in Goa that Advani was ignored and Narendra Modi was appointed the chief campaign manager of the BJP in his 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Subsequently it was Parrikar who bulldozed the resolution to project Narendra Modi as the prime minister in the event the BJP won the parliamentary elections.

So much so when the BJP got only 13 seats and it would looked as though its bitter rival the Congress would form the government, Amit Shah directed Nitin Gadkari to ensure that the Congress was not permitted to form the government. The BJP would appear ridiculous if in Goa its ambition of ensuring a Congress Mukt Bharat was defeated. Gadkari was sent to Goa to ensure that the BJP form the government at any cost. The Congress committed harakiri with Luizinho Faleiro sabotaging the alliance with the Goa Congress. The condition of the Goa Congress and the MGP was that Parrikar should come back to Goa as Chief Minister, which bhai was very happy to do.

All was not lost. The Congress was hoping that it could shock Manohar Parrikar and the BJP in the bye-election that was held on August 23, 2017. The Congress was hoping that Babush Monserrate would help the party to take revenge. Never mind the Congress had expelled Babush for putting up a panel against it in the civic elections. Till two weeks before the bye-election it appeared that Babush would contest the Panjim assembly seats. Parrikar panicked as he knew that he no longer enjoyed the kind of support he had in the past. Parrikar was aware that even his own community was angry with him as dramatised by the open letter writer to him by his old friend and fan Rajan Parrikar. Parrikar again pleaded and begged with Babush Monserrate not to contest against him in Panjim. Babush perhaps realised that there was no future for him in the Congress party. To the shock of everyone Babush joined Goa Forward on the eve of the elections. Which effectively meant that he would not be the congress candidate much to the relief of Parrikar.

The Congress was desperate. They had no candidate to contest against Parrikar as they had taken it for granted that Babush would be their candidate. The confusion was compounded with the congress sacking Luzinho Falerio and appointing new GPCC Chief who wanted a local candidate. It was difficult for congress to find a local Panjim candidate who could be trusted. The fear was under pressure from Parrikar any Congress candidate might enter into a setting with the CM. Finally it fell on Girish Chodankar, secretary of the AICC and a close confidant of Rahul Gandhi to take on Manohar Parrikar.

Girish may have lost but he put up a very good fight considering the he had very little time to campaign. He put up a very good fight although the High Command did not give him the resources needed, and although the senior leaders did not campaign for him because of the dissent within the party. Senior Rane who has been Congress chief minister eight times was not to be seen in Panjim. Some may say this was not strange considering his son Vishwajit was contesting on the BJP ticket in Valpoi. But even the former GPCC Chief and the former chief minister put in only guest appearances in the campaign.

Manohar Parrikar had boasted that he would win by a huge margin. Even on the eve of the counting Parrikar exuded confidence that he would win by a record margin of over 10,000 votes and that the Congress candidate Girish Chodanakar would lose his deposits. Parrikar may have won but the margin of his victory is the lowest in the sixth elections that he has contested. In the past Manohar Parrikar has won by a margin of 8,000 votes or more. This time the total votes polled by Manohar Parrikar were only 9,862 as against the 5,059 votes polled by Girish Chodankar. The votes polled by Parrikar would have been even lower if the Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) led by Subhash Velingkar had taken the Saraswat votes as it did in the 2014 election. But it’s clear from the fact that GSM got only 220 votes, that there has been a setting between the BJP and the RSS. This time the RSS voters have been directed to vote for Manohar Parrikar. It would also seem clear that the Saraswats seems to have stood by Parrikar because of the notorious amche factor. The Saraswats have always stood by each other even if one of their group is guilty of fraud as Parrikar has been.

The biggest humiliation for Parrikar is that Vishwajit Rane won by double the margin of votes in Valpoi than Parrikar did in Panjim. As against Parrikar’s margin of victory 4,803, Vishwajit Rane won by a huge margin of 10,066 votes. As against the total number of votes polled by Parrikar of 9,862 votes, Vishwajit  secured 16,167 votes. Which shows that the Rane family has greater hold over voters in Goa then Manohar Parrikar or the BJP. The writing on the wall is clear. Parrikar has been defeated in victory. And Girish has won even though he is lost.

If perhaps the Saraswats had not blindly voted for Parrikar and if the Church had worked actively to negate the blessing give by the Panjim parish priest, Girish may have done much better and perhaps even won the Panjim Assembly seat. Now Goans will have to wait until 2019 when the parliamentary elections come up to express their lack of confidence in the BJP. Fortunately the Supreme Court has done for Goans and for all Indians what the Congress has not able to do by the historic verdict on triple talaq and even more importantly, the right to privacy.

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