RECENT TURNCOATS: Dayanand Sopte (l) and Shubhash Shirodkar (r) are the latest to be fished out of the Congress pool by master fisherman Amit Shah
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Congress continued to remain paralysed and has now lost the opportunity to stake a claim to form the government as the largest single party as two Congress MLAs — veteran Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte, who defeated Laxmikant Parsekar in Mandrem — defected to the BJP. For a Saturday following the week when the revolt within the BJP against the hijacking of the two congress MLAs Shubhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte. For a Saturday following the week when at last the CCP started enforcing the ban on plastic. For a Saturday following the week when veteran journalist and Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar hired 97 lawyers to file a criminal defamation complaint against Priya Ramani.
CONGRESS — Back to SQUARE ONE
And a few stray thoughts on the Congress losing its claim to being the single largest party in the Legislative Assembly.
In the Assembly elections held in 2017 much to the shock of the BJP it got only 13 seats in the 40 member Assembly. The Congress was also pleasantly shocked as it got 17 seats —much more than expected. It could not use the opportunity to form the government as its leaders — particularly Luizinho Faleiro, Pratapsingh Rane and Digambar Kamat were too busy fighting to occupy the chief minister’s chair, rather than working on forging links with potential alliance partners.
The Congress was at an advantage as it was understood that the Goa Forward which had three MLAs in the house would extend their support to the Congress. But Vijai Sardesai’s condition that Digambar Kamat should be made the chief minister was not accepted by the Congress high command.
While the Congress crawled like a tortoise, BJP trouble shooter Nitin Gadkari rushed to Goa late at night and by the morning had sealed a deal both with the three member MGP group, the three member GF group and some Independents. So even as the Congress leaders were still fighting in the presence of the high command observer Digvijay Singh, the BJP was already in the Raj Bhavan staking a claim to form the government backed by the numbers needed.
Another opportunity presented itself to the Congress due to the nine month old pancreatic cancer of Manohar Parrikar. Unfortunately for the BJP three other MLAs namely Pandurang Madkaikar, Francis D’Souza, and Sudin Dhavalikar, who was number two in the Cabinet, also fell ill. While Sudin seems to be back in action, the condition of Madkaikar and Francis is still bad, and the health of the chief minister itself is very precarious.
The bhakts might keep talking about how bhai is getting better and better but the symbolism of Manohar Parrikar being carried in a stretcher from the ambulance to his special home ICU has not been lost on anybody. Though we wish him well I do not think Parrikar is in any state to run the state.
This meant that the strength of the BJP in the Assembly had fallen to 10, which made it very vulnerable. The Congress could have taken advantage of the division within the BJP and got Francis D’Souza and Michael Lobo to quit and join the Congress. Vijai Sardesai and his group of six would have preferred to suffer the Congress under Digambar, rather than the BJP. If the Congress high command following the example of the BJP in Bihar had offered the chief ministership to Vijai Sardesai they could have permanently ended the BJP hold over Goa.
But the Congress as usual behaved like the notorious Goan crab which prefers to pull down those who are ahead. Even while the Congress addressed a press conference in Delhi and approached the President to direct the Governor to convene a session to prove its majority, Amit Shah struck. Overnight the situation changed with the BJP grabbing Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte who had defeated Laxmikant Parsekar in Mandrem. This makes it 14 all without taking into consideration those on the sick list. This has the effect of ensuring that the Congress can no longer claim that it is the single largest party and stake its claim to form the government.
But the hijacking of Shirodkar and Sopte does not guarantee that the BJP will remain in power. In the first place Laxmikant Parsekar, who is an RSS favourite, is unhappy that Sopte who defeated him has been admitted to the BJP. For all you know Parsekar may want to join the Congress.
Similarly, Michael Lobo and Francis D’Souza are still very upset with the BJP high command for not considering their claims. Francis D’Souza believes he is fit enough to be chief minister despite his kidney transplant and diabetes. Michael Lobo is furious that Nilesh Cabral and not him was picked up to fill Pandurang Madkaikar’s post as power minister.
The BJP in Goa is as divided as the Congress with many contenders for the chief minister’s post. Unfortunately none of them have the stature and administrative experience of Manohar Parrikar. With the party insisting that the chief minister should only be from the BJP the options are even narrower. Technically Vishwajit, who played a major role in hijacking Sopte and Shirodkar, is still not part of BJP. Neither Tendulkar, the President, nor any of the other BJP MLAs, like speaker Promod Sawant, are likely to be accepted as chief minister by the people.
With Parliamentary elections around the corner the BJP can take no chances. It does not want to declare President’s Rule as it will lose the Lok Sabha seats from Goa. It might need to keep Parrikar alive on life support systems till the Parliamentary elections so that there is an illusion that they have a competent chief minister. Even though he may not able to perform his duties, someone like Nitin Gadkari can always do the backseat driving.
And a few stray thoughts on the revolt within the BJP over the hijacking of the two Congress MLAs Shubhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte.
The hijacking of the two MLAs was reportedly done on the instigation of Vishwajit Rane who is very keen on becoming chief minister of the state. Indeed Vishwajit tried very hard to persuade Papa Pratapsingh Rane also to quit the Congress and join the BJP. But senior Rane was not willing to make the switch at his age after having being chief minister of Congres-led government for a record seven terms.
In fact Pratapsingh Rane was the first Congress chief minister of the state of Goa. For the first 18 years after Liberation, Goa was ruled by the Maharahstrawadi Gomantak Party. It was the defection of Pratapsingh Rane who was the Revenue minister in Sashikala’s MGP Cabinet that let to the eclipse of the MGP and the rise of the Congress in the state.
It was imperative for the BJP to add to its numbers in the Legislative Assembly where it had only 14 MLAs compare to the 16 who were elected in the Congress ticket.
The Congress had staked its claim to be invited to form the government on the ground that it was the largest single party. Although the congress should have been invited to form the government immediately after the election it lost its chance as the BJP managed to patched together an alliance to demonstrate that it had a majority on the floor of the house. The Congress suffered another reverse when Vishwajit Rane, who was elected on the Congress ticket, decided to quit and got himself re-elected on the BJP ticket.
The election commission in 2000 amended the anti-defection act making a provision that any MLA (whether member of a party or an independent who wanted to join another political party) had to resign and re-contest on the ticket of the party he wanted to join.
Unfortunately in the case of the hijacking of Dayanand Sopte and Shubhash Shirodkar, the BJP has been wrongly advised. In fact they have insulted their own senior leaders. Dayanand Sopte had defeated Laxmikant Parsekar who was handpicked by the RSS for the chief minister’s post overruling even Manohar Parrikar who was in favour of Rajendar Arlekar. The BJP workers both in Shiroda and in Mandrem have resolved to defeat the defectors if they contested again on the BJP ticket.
It is clear that the hijacking of the Congress MLAs was the idea of the national BJP president Amit Shah and not Manohar Parrikar who knows the ground reality much better. A panicky Parrikar had to summoned Shubhas Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte and ask him to start working in their constituency to reassure the workers that they have not been double crossed.
The revolt within the BJP has also killed any chances of Vishwajit Rane being selected as the leader of the BJP Legislative Party, who automatically becomes the chief minister. The BJP MLAs have been insisting right from the beginning that only one of the original BJP MLAs should be considered as a successor to Parrikar. So its seems to be back to square one with the BJP high command being forced to consider Parrikar’s suggestion of making speaker Promod Sawant the chief minister.
It may be recall that on Independence Day, in Parrikar’s absence Promod Sawant was asked to raise the National Flag and address the Independence day gathering.
On Tuesday night Promod Sawant was summoned to Delhi to meet Amit Shah which seems to indicate that the BJP realized that hijacking Congress MLAs is not a very good idea.
And a few stray thoughts on the ban on plastics by the CCP. The ban was mandated by the Supreme Court and extends to not only urban areas but even to Panchayats. Maharashtra has gone one step further and banned thermacol which is normally used for Ganesh decoration along with plastic bags.
One can sense the hands of the MD of the waste management corporation. You cannot underestimate Sanjit Rodriques even if under political pressure you move him out of the most prestigious corporation the Goa State Infrastructure Corporation to the Waste Management Corporation.
Sanjit, who was a favourite of both Manohar Parrikar and Digambar Kamat, has always made ripples wherever and in whatever position he has held. He is not new to waste management. It was as commissioner of CCP that he started the door-to-door collection of garbage in Panjim. While the door-to-door collection of segregated garbage works perfectly, despite two decades having passed, there is no garbage dump in Panjim.
Babush, who used to provide him a place for dumping garbage, is no longer interested in bailing out the Congress. He has even lost interest in the children’s park built at Caranzalem. Babush is sore over the fact that he is no longer an MLA; his wife couldn’t care less.
Vijai Sardesai has not been able to deliver on his promise of making Babush the king of the extended PDA which will include Santa Cruz, Merces, Agassaim and the very highly profitable Kadamba Plateau. Babush is waiting for Parrikar to resign so that he can contest from Panjim constituency.
To come back to garbage the CCP distributed bags made out of some fibre which they claimed was totally biodegradable. But the problem is that the shopkeepers and the people in the Panjim market continued to use plastic bags till they were penalized. Some of them have chosen to use paper bags which are cheaper. The catch is that unlike the ordinary citizen, business organisations have to pay for for the fibre bags. The fibre bags often leak, making them unsuitable for carrying fish and other non-packaged food items.
But plastic bags are only the tip of the plastic garbage mountain. For reasons of health and immobility I have been ordering out my meals most of the time. Every time I order a curd-rice it comes wrapped in foil and with plastic spoons and forks. If you order a pizza it is even worse. Little sachets of sauces and seasonings like oregano and chilly flakes. A 5-star hotel is adding to the junk in a major way by offering take away lunches in a huge plastic container.
Most of the consumer items that we use, right from Fair & Lovely, to hair colouring, to even Surf and other washing powder brands, come in small sachets of plastic. These are the worst polluters as who can resist getting a Head and Shoulders shampoo or a Godrej hair colour for `2. In the past there was hardly any plastic and everything came in glass bottles. Now even things that come in glass bottles have refills in plastic.
In the last month also the only ads I have seen which boasts of no plastic in the tiffin box, is from Borosil, which has traditionally been a glass container.
And a last stray thought on the assault launched on Priya Ramani, the journalist who spoke up, by Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar.
The minister, who denied all the facts, has engaged a law firm which has 97 lawyers to file a criminal defamation suit. All 97 lawyers were listed on the vakalatnama in what seems to be a clear attempt to intimidate Ramani. Criminal libel carries a jail sentence unlike civil libel which only leads to a claim for damages.
Modi, of course, is not talking about even seeking an explanation from Akbar, let along sacking him. I understand however that the RSS, who disapprove of such behaviour, are upset.
Fortunately, along with some BJP ministers, even Additional Attorney General Pinky Anand, has come out in support of the victims. Surprisingl,y Smriti Irani has come out strongly in defence of the victims, although it was Menaka Gandhi who first spoke out.
A pioneering management graduate who had headed many companies recalls the embarrassment that she faced when she went to interviews more than 50 years ago. A one-man interview ‘committee’ asked her what was a four letter word on intercourse ending in K. The lady was smart enough to answer “Talk”.