DOUBLE STANDARDS: While Francis D’Souza and Pandurang Madkaikar have been dropped for having serious illnesses, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, suffering from pancreatic cancer, and Sudin Dhavalikar, who has reportedly had a liver transplant, have been retained in the Cabinet
BY RAJAN NARAYAN’
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when two sick ministers were spared, while the other two less sick ones were sacked. For a Saturday following the week when the worst casualty of the epidemic of sickness affecting the Cabinet was the Public Works Department. For a Saturday following the week when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) high command could not find a substitute for Manohar Parrikar as chief minister of Goa. For a Saturday following the week when the Congress party submitted a memorandum to the governor, seeking an urgent session of the Legislative Assembly to force the BJP to prove that it continued to have a majority. For a Saturday following the week when small and medium business houses became victims of the mega scams of the Kingfishers and Nirav Modi.
SICK MANTRIs SACKED
And a few stray thoughts on the sacking of two sick members of the Cabinet even while two equally sick or sicker mantris were spared.
The BJP high command dropped Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar and Urban Development Minister Francis D’Souza from the Cabinet. The excuse was that Pandurang Madkaikar suffered a serious stroke and had not fully recovered yet. Francis D’Souza is reported to be taking treatment at the Sloan Kettering hospital in New York for kidney failure-linked health issues.
Unlike Pandurang Madkaikar, who is apparently still in a wheel chair and is in no position to resume work, Francis D’Souza had declared that if there was a no-confidence vote and his presence was needed to save the government, he was willing to fly back to Goa within 24 hours.
There is no doubt that the departments managed by Pandurang Madkaikar, of which the Electricity Department was the main, were suffering due to his absence. Similarly the Urban Development Department under Francis D’Souza has also not been functioning very effectively.
No tears will be shed over the sacking of Pandurang Madkaikar who is alleged to be corrupt and has built a huge mansion very close to the heritage complex in Old Goa. In the case of Francis D’Souza, who has been a loyal solider of the BJP, it seems to be a case of deliberate humiliation.
This is not the first time Francis has suffered because of being a Catholic and not having the support of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). This was not for want of trying, as Francis D’Souza tried to woo the RSS by calling himself a Hindu Catholic or a Catholic Hindu. There is an element of truth in this as all the Catholics in Goa are Hindu converts, including the Saraswat Brahmin Catholics.
Francis D’Souza’s claim to the chief ministership was rudely denied when he staked his claim as deputy chief minister in the Parrikar government when the latter was shifted to Delhi as defence minister. Despite having the support of more than 12 MLAs, Francis was not considered for the chief minister’s post which went to Laxmikant Parsekar who was very close to the RSS.
When the BJP, thanks to the manipulation of Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, managed to hijacked the government despite winning only 13 of 40 seats, Francis was further humiliated. Presumably because of the compulsion of coalition politics he had to yield the first two positions in the Cabinet to alliance partners Sudin Dhavalikar of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Vijai Sardesai of the Goa Forward (GF).
Absurdly enough, Sudin Dhavalikar who is as sick, or even sicker than Francis D’Souza, has not been dropped from the Cabinet. On the contrary, under pressure from Nitin Gadkari, he was being seriously considered to replace Parrikar as chief minister or at least deputy chief minister. This was however sabotaged by Vijai Sardesai who managed to mobilise the independents and form a group of six, which rejected the idea of Sudin becoming chief minister. The GF group of six has been insisting on a permanent solution to the continuing political crisis in Goa.
The worst part is the manner in which the re-shuffle, which involved the dropping of Francis and Madkaikar, and the swearing in of Nilesh Cabral and Milind Naik, took place. It should have been elementary courtesy for the party president, if not the chief minister himself, to inform the ministers being dropped of the change. Apparently this was not done and even Pandurang Madkaikar’s wife who is in Mumbai with him was not informed, let alone Francis D’Souza’s son, still very much in Goa.
Having said that, a full time minister was desperately needed in the Power Department.
Goa has been facing frequent disruptions in power supply. The commercial capital Margao has been the worst hit by the collapse of the transformer and problems with the grid supplying power to the south. The beach belt has also been experiencing serious power shortages. The worst part is that even water supply to the Opa water works, which supplies drinking water to the Tiswadi Taluka, including capital city Panjim, has been witnessing frequent power failures.
Nilesh Cabral has proved himself as an efficient MLA and chairman of GTDC. Shifting Nilesh to Power will also help reduce the frequent clashes between him and Tourism Minister Babu Ajgaonkar. Milind Naik of Vasco will have to prove himself. Although he has been a minister before, he is not very assertive or effective.
The re-shuffle is not complete with the chief minister expected to distribute most of the portfolios he holds to his Cabinet colleagues after the inauspicious period of pitra — which is 10 day period of mourning for the Hindu community.
Whether Parrikar will part with key portfolios like Home, Finance and Education is yet to be seen.
And a few stray thoughts on the inability of the BJP to find a successor for Manohar Parrikar despite the chief minister himself asking to be relieved because of his health.
For the last seven months Parrikar has spent most of his time in hospitals in Mumbai and New York for treatment for pancreatic cancer. On two occasions when he returned from New York he had to be flown back within 48 hours as his condition took a turn for the worse.
Parrikar rushed back to Goa perhaps against the medical advice on the eve of Chaturthi. Within a few hours of returning he had to be rushed to the Dukle hospital in Candolim which is owned by the family of his in laws. It may be noted that even before he became the chief minister, Parrikar’s wife died of blood cancer and he had to bring up his two children by himself.
Since Parrikar had just returned from New York after a brief period of eight days, the BJP high command probably decided that it could not have Parrikar commuting between Goa and New York frequently. This time around it was decided to treat him at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) which is considered among the best government medical centres in the country. Moreover it is based in Delhi where both Modi and Amit Shah can keep an eye on him.
Though Parrikar was willing to step down, the BJP could not find a substitute for him among the elected BJP MLAs. This was primarily because the alliance partners, namely the MGP and the GF, not to mention the independents, had extended support not to the BJP, but to Manohar Parrikar to form the government. It has been reported that Amit Shah, the BJP president, is not confident that the government will survive a trust vote on the floor of the Assembly, particularly because four members of the Cabinet, including the chief minister are sick, reducing the effective strength of the BJP, if you include the speaker, to only 10 out of 40.
The proposal by Nitin Gadkari to make Sudin Dhavalikar the chief minister or the deputy chief minister was conditional on him joining the BJP. The other MGP members were not willing to merge Goa’s oldest party (which ruled the state for the first 18 years after Liberation) with the BJP. So there was no choice but to retain Manohar Parrikar as the chief minister despite the fact that he is the sickest of the lot. Though the official fiction is that he has a pancreatic aliment, it is now an open secret he is at a very advanced stage of pancreatic cancer.
Conditions like this cannot be kept secret forever. There are rumours that Parrikar cannot eat any solids and has to be fed intravenously. Maybe the latest crisis was sparked by his being unable to resist the temptation of eating modaks. Whatever may be the provocation, the fact remains that Parrikar cannot control the government by remote control, whether it is from New York or Delhi.
If ministers holding two or three portfolios can be sacked because administration is suffering, surely the same logic should apply to Parrikar who was holding a massive 30 portfolios and still continues to hold critical portfolios like Finance. No project can take off because Parrikar holds the Finance portfolio and his clearance is needed to sanction any funds.
Though there is talk of Parrikar distributing even the critical portfolios among his Cabinet colleagues, it is unlikely. He is a control freak and does not trust his Cabinet colleagues.
What baffles me is the veil of secrecy over the health of Goan politicians particularly. When Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had a kidney problem he publicly acknowledged it and took three months leave so that he could recover completely before resuming office. Similarly Anant Kumar, another senior BJP minister, has admitted that he underwent treatment in London for pancreatic cancer.
In the US it is mandatory for people occupying high positions, like the president or even senior officials, to report on their health. This is particularly true of the president of the US who has an aide following him with a briefcase called the football, which contains the codes for launching nuclear missiles.
Even if the president is going to be unconscious because of anaesthesia for a minor operation he has to handover charge of the office and the football to the vice president. The EC must make it compulsory for all MLAs and members of Cabinet, including the prime minister and the president, to disclose the state of their health.
And a few stray thoughts on why the Congress is not able to take advantage of the political crisis within the BJP.
With the chief minister being sick and the speaker not permitted to vote, the strength of the BJP has come down to 10 in the 40 member house. The coalition numbers are further reduced by the illness of Sudin Dhavalikar and Carlos Almeida. The Congress could very easily topple the BJP government if it secures the support of the GF and the three independents aligned with them. With the Congress having 16 MLAs in the Legislative Assembly, the addition of the six-member Vijai Sardesai group and NCP MLA Churchill Alemao means the Congress can have a comfortable majority of 23 out of 40.
They can not only get the chief ministers post but can appoint their own speaker by moving a vote of no confidence against Promod Sawant, the BJP-appointed speaker. Admittedly the Congress has submitted a memorandum to the governor demanding a special session of the Assembly to topple the BJP government. The Congress has also served notice for a no confidence vote against the Speaker.
Surprisingly, even as the Congress is getting ready to topple the BJP, two of their MLAs, Felipe Neri and Jennifer Monserrate, have gone abroad. If they were serious about toppling the government they would not leave the state, let alone the country at this time. We can understand Jennifer’s decision to go abroad as the Monserrates are not keen on joining efforts to topple the government. On the contrary the talk is that if Parrikar steps down, or unfortunately something happens to him, Vijai wants the Panjim constituency ticket to go to Babush Monserrate.
In the 2017 elections Babush had held off from contesting against Sidharth Kuncalienker at the request of Parrikar. It was Girish Chodankar, now the GPCC president, who took on Parrikar in the by-elections that were held after Parrikar returned to Goa as chief minister. Babush was persuaded not to contest against Parrikar in the by-elections. So the king-maker, who not only got his wife Jennifer elected from Taleigao and his close friends elected from Santa Cruz and Goa Velha in the 2017 elections, is not an MLA for the first time in two decades.
But the real problem with the attempts of the Congress to topple the BJP government is the issue of who will become the chief minister. As it happened last time when, because of the fight between Luizinho Faleiro and Digambar Kamat, Parrikar became the chief minister, this time also the party cannot agree on who should be the chief ministerial candidate.
The party high command is in favour of Girish Chodankar but he is not acceptable to the senior leaders of the party.
And a last stray thought on how small and medium businesses are suffering while the big crooks have run away.
The king of good times, Vijay Mallya, fled the country without paying over `7,000 crore to banks, the day after he had a meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in parliament. Vijay Mallya was a member of parliament at that time from Karnataka. The CBI is also reported to have amended its look-out notice from detention to merely keeping track of the movements of Vijay Mallya.
In the case of Nirav Modi he was seen with Narendra Modi at the world business meeting at Davos in Switzerland, just two weeks before he also disappeared. The day before he vanished he threw a lavish party for the bold and the beautiful in Mumbai.
Because of Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya, and many more like them — in an attempt to bolt the stable doors long after the horses have bolted — now the Department of Company Affairs is re-checking the digital signatures of small businesses. I had to submit not only the details to fulfil the KYC norms, but also had to produce details of my passport, so that unlike Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi I can’t run away from the country. This despite the fact that I have not taken a single loan or defaulted on one paisa to the banks or any financial institution.
Literally thousands of directors will lose their posts because they have not re-verified their KYC norms and acquired a digital signature by September 30. For every day of delay in getting a digital signature, there is a fine of `5,000. Earlier only directors operating the bank accounts, not the honorary directors, had to have a DIN.