MAHAGATBANDHAN: Over 22 parties have come together to take on Narendra Modi and Amit Shah under the leadership of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The leaders include Mayawati and Akhilesh from UP, Devegowda from Karnataka, Kejriwal from Delhi, Chandra Babu from Andhra Pradesh and even representatives of the Congress
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
With bye-elections to the Mandrem and Shiroda constituencies fast approaching and the Mahabharata of the NDA verses UPA to follow soon after, whom should the aam aadmi vote for. The voters has lost faith in the BJP which has failed to deliver the promise of achhe din. The infighting between senior and junior leader has paralysed the Congress. AAP has not caught on in Goa. There is nothing to choose between those who will be contesting the election!
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the ugliest of them all? This is the question that all voters are asking themselves on the eve of bye elections to the Mandrem and Shiroda constituencies.
It may be recalled that Congress MLAs Subhash Shirodkar (Shiroda) and Dayanand Sopte (Mandrem) resigned and joined the BJP party necessitating a bye election. The Election Commission rule is that no member of the Legislative Assembly including Independents can join another party without resigning the membership of the party on whose ticket they had been elected.
The people of Goa are also concerned and confused about what they should do and whom they should vote for in the Parliamentary election that is due very soon. There is also a belief that with the government being headless for over a year there is bound to be a midterm poll for the Goa Assembly coinciding with the Parliamentary elections.
THE ‘UNSTABLE’ YEARS
In retrospect it would appear the bad old days of the ‘90s which followed Goa achieving statehood in 1987 have come back to haunt the voters. The ‘90s were an era of extreme instability with thirteen governments in a span of ten years.
Towards the end of the tenure of Pratapsingh Rane as chief minister of the state of Goa, Churchill Alemao and Luis Proto Barbosa revolted to bring down the Rane government. This was due to a minor grievance of Churchill Alemao over being denied the Sports portfolio. Seven members left the Congress and formed the Goan People’s Party (GPP). The GPP and one section of the MGP led by Ramakant Khalap formed a coalition government under the banner of Progressive Democratic Front (PDF). Khalap was made deputy chief minister of the Progressive Democratic Front government.
The then Congress President Dr Wilfred D’Souza was even smarter and reached out to six MGP MLAs headed by Ravi Naik with the offer of chief ministership. So the PDF government led by Barbosa was toppled and Ravi Naik was appointed chief minister in early 1991. But Ravi Naik was later disqualified by the Goa Bench of the Bombay HC permitting Dr Wilfred D Souza to realize his ambition to become chief minister.
The Supreme Court overturned the disqualification of Ravi Naik on February 9, 1994, and on April 1, 1994, when five ministers of Wilfred D’Souza’s cabinet resigned in protest against his “autocratic rule”, the then governor, Bhanu Pratap Singh, summarily dismissed Wilfred D’Souza a day later and without consulting the Centre went on to install the former chief minister, Ravi Naik, in his place.
An angry Central government sacked both Ravi Naik and the governor and re-appointed Dr Wilfred D Souza as the chief minister within a week.
Pratapsingh Rane was again chief minister from December 1994 until July 1998, when Wilfred D’Souza formed the Goa Rajiv Congress Party as a splinter group of the INC and was sworn in as chief minister for the third time.
In the 1998 elections Luizinho Faleiro was appointed as chief minister by the Congress high command as the party managed to get the majority. The Luizinho Faleiro government was toppled by Francisco Sardinha and seven other Congress members who combined with Manohar Parrikar’s four BJP MLAs to topple the Sardinha government.
THE PARRIKAR ERA
The era of political instability seemed to end with Manohar Parrikar becoming the chief minister. But the tradition of coalition governments (which means a government formed of the khichdi of parties) did not end even with Manohar Parrikar becoming the chief minister in 2000.
The khichdi Manohar Parrikar government initially came to power with the support of group in the Congress and several Independents. Parrikar called for elections and the BJP for the first time crossed the two digit mark in the Assembly but still did not get a majority. So it invited some of the worst elements in Goan politics like Babush Monseratte and Mickey Pacheco to extend support to the party to form the government.
If I am the monster who created Churchill Alemao and Luizinho Faleiro during the language agitation, it was Manohar Parrikar who created the monster-rat Babush Monserrate.
The Parrikar government of 2002 was permanently unstable. It had to go to the extent of getting three Congress MLAs, Pandurang Madkaikar, Isadore Fernandes and Babush Monserrate himself to quit the Congress and re-contest on the BJP ticket to be able to sustain its majority in the Assembly. The math did not add up as Felip Neri decided to quit the party and there were wars within the Legislative Assembly. The Centre declared President’s Rule with the late Lt General JFR Jacob being appointed as the Governor which was the golden era of Goan politics with a stable honest government for the first time since statehood if not Liberation. Though Manohar Parrikar has been elected to power as the head of the BJP government four times, Manohar Parrikar has never been able to serve as chief minister for the full term of the Assembly.
The Congress came back to power again with the support of the alliance partner in 2002 with Digambar Kamat heading the government. Digambar became the chief minister by sheer luck as there was a fight between Pratapsingh Rane and Ravi Naik to become the chief minister. Digambar was probably was the only chief minister in recent times who completed a full term in office.
But in the election that followed in 2007 the BJP manage to get the majority by adopting a new strategy. For the first time in the history of the BJP, Manohar Parrikar offered party tickets to Catholic candidates and managed to break the monopoly of the Congress on Salcete. Even senior leaders like Luizinho Faleiro Francisco Sardinha and Churchill Alemeo were defeated.
But due to a revolt within the BJP Manohar Parrikar could not complete a full term as the chief minister. In the subsequent election conducted in 2012 also the BJP manage to secure a majority and form the government. This was primarily by bribing the Church by agreeing to extend grants to church-run schools that changed medium of instruction from Konkani in the Devanagiri script back to English.
The BJP completed the whole term but Manohar Parrikar was summoned to Delhi to be the Defense Minister when the BJP won the Parliamentary election by the huge majority. Since Parrikar had not built a second line of leadership the RSS imposed Laxmikant Parsekar as the chief minister while Parrikar was defense minister in Delhi. Even the fact that the BJP was in power at the Centre and Parrikar had been given the high position of defense minister did not helped the BJP in the 2017 election. To the shock of the BJP it got only 13 seats as against the unexpected 17 seats got by the Congress party. There had been an understanding between the Congress and the Goa Forward (which won three seats) that they would come together and form the government under the leadership of Digambar Kamat.
The Congress high command observer Digvijay Singh and GPCC Chief Luizinho Faleiro are believed to have poisoned the minds of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. In the meanwhile Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari struck like lightening and overnight hijacked both the Goa Forward party with three members and the MGP to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The only condition of the alliance partners was that Manohar Parrikar should come back to Goa as the chief minister. This was welcomed by Parrikar who had allegedly developed serious differences with Narendra Modi over the Rafale deal and any way missed his xitt kodi.
Unfortunately for Manohar Parrikar unhappy days were back again for the BJP with his being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer soon after he became chief minister. Indeed Manohar Parrikar could not even present his first budget as chief minister because of his illness. The farce has continued with Manohar Parrikar refusing to give up the chief minister’s kodel though he has spent more time in hospital then in his office since he became chief minister this time around.
The BJP leadership in Goa thought that they would try to strengthen the BJP by getting Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte to follow the example of Vishwajit Rane who resigned his Congress seats and re-contested on the BJP ticket and won.
While there were not many objections to Vishwajit Rane joining the BJP there has been stiff competition to the admission of Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte. Forget about the MGP and the Goa Forward, even senior leaders of the BJP like former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar, who was defeated by Dayanand Sopte, and Rajendra Arlekar, have protested the BJP following the Congress politics of encouraging defection.
The MGP has made it clear that its loyalty is to Manohar Parrikar and that it intends contesting the bye-elections to the Shiroda and Mandrem seats, and perhaps even the Parliamentary elections. Former RSS chief Subhash Velingkar has also decided to contest the election in Mandrem. A former senior BJP leader who was also a minister, Milind Nayak, has decided to contest on the Congress ticket to add to the confusion.
The people of Goa are totally disgusted. They are disgusted because ever since Statehood the horse trading has intensified. They are disgusted because only twice since Statehood has any government completed a full term in office. Before Goa became a State, after its Liberation, there was a two party system with there being only the MGP and the United Goans. But since 1967 there is no party loyalty. Goan MLAs have treated the Assembly as a park or a garden into which they can walk in or walk out whenever they want to.
They have no assurance of how long a government will last and which minister will jump to some other party. Coalition politics have been a disaster for Goa because even though there have been good chief ministers like Digambar Kamat and Manohar Parrikar, they have been forced to tolerate the corruption of their alliance colleagues to stay in power. Which is why Goa is facing the biggest threat to its existence since Liberation.
Mining has been suspended, leaving several lakhs jobless. The tourism industry is on the decline. There is nobody to police the police. With the home minister in the ICU most of the time, the police instead of protecting citizens from goons are themselves beating up citizens. The Director General of Police, who boasts of giving challans to half to Goa’s population, is not able to stop a few thousand domestic tourists from drinking on the beach and splattering the beaches with broken glass bottles. The whole of Goa is drowning under village. There is an acute water shortage as pipes keep bursting. There continues to be an acute shortage of power because of lakhs of powers primarily linesman who are the pillars of the electricity department.
Goans are most disgusted over the continued uncertainty. They do not know when there will be a new chief minister since it is clear that Manohar Parrikar is in no position to control the government and manage the 20 portfolios he is holding. With the fights within the MGP, BJP workers are demoralized and do not know whom to vote for. The BJP has become like the Congress where everyone wants to be the leader. The Congress has not been able to take advantage of the crisis in the BJP. Which is why the question on everyone’s mind is mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the ugliest of them all? Whom do they vote for in the elections in Shiroda and Mandrem? Whom do they vote for in the Parliamentary election? Whom do they vote for if the Assembly is dissolved and fresh elections are held?
They cannot trust the BJP whose chief minister insisted in sticking to the kodel despite his terminal sickness. They cannot trust the Congress which is full of corrupt MLAs. The GF has proved to be worse than the BJP or the Congress. Nobody trusts Sudin Dhavalikar who is officially in charge of the third Mandovi bridge which we have learned, after crores of expenditure, cannot be used by two wheelers and possibly light vehicles. Catholics also do not trust him because of his connections to Hindutva fundamentalists. So maybe the only option before Goa is to merge with Maharashtra or Portugal!