It isn’t time to breathe easy, not yet if you are concerned about Goa and want to see that the administration does not suffer. Goa’s political crisis may not be over. Dropping two ailing ministers and inducting two others is hardly a solution to the imbroglio that has been consuming the Goan population over the past few weeks and bringing governance to a virtual halt. Until Monday morning, Goa had three Ministers, including the Chief Minister, hospitalised. By evening it had one, the Chief Minister. A strong message going out through this induction of ministers is: get used to a government that operates based on directions given by a Chief Minister who is receiving medical treatment in a hospital in New Delhi.
The mood at the Raj Bhawan was sombre on Monday evening, when the two MLAs took oath as ministers, and it was expected. This is the first time that a swearing-in ceremony involving BJP ministers in Goa has taken place without the presence of Manohar Parrikar, who has been the face of the party in the State. Though all the MLAs who occupy the treasury benches in the Legislative Assembly, and present in Goa, attended the ceremony; missing were the two ailing MLAs who were dropped from the cabinet to make way for the new comers, and the Chief Minister himself who communicated about the cabinet reshuffle from his hospital bed in New Delhi.
That is the scene that is going to play out in Goa over the next few days, weeks, months, nobody knows how long for sure. The induction of two physically fit ministers in place of the ailing MLAs who held ministerial berths in the Parrikar government may act in giving the government some stability, but it does not reduce the burden on the Chief Minister, who is himself in hospital. Until the Chief Minister divests some of the portfolios he is holding, and he has retained some major ones including Mining, Finance, Home and Education, governance in the State will not improve.
The induction of the new ministers also does not address the question of the headless government. In the absence of the Chief Minister, the State has been limping along since February this year and the need for the proverbial a firm hand on the tiller to guide the administration is being sorely felt. We have here a ship at sea, buffeted by stormy waters, whose captain is missing from the command room and whose absence sticks out like a sore thumb.
Within the party, the BJP’s Central leadership is walking on thin ice in trying to explain why this induction was effected. The BJP has also not done itself a favour with this induction of ministers. There is already resentment in the party as Bardez, though it has three ministers in the cabinet, not one of them is from the BJP. Most difficult would be trying to convince the need to drop Francis D’Souza, who perhaps is the biggest loser in this reshuffle. This could cost the party dearly in the coming Lok Sabha polls. The BJP loyalist who has stood by the party for two decades, was deputy Chief Minister under Parrikar and in November 2014 had even been considered as a replacement to him, when the latter had been called to New Delhi to handle the Defence Ministry, has today said that this is the reward he has got from the party.
Goa’s reward is a government that believes that it can keep the people happy by doling out minor and local development projects that obscure the larger needs of the State. the reward is a government whose parent party believes in changing ministers who are ill but not the chief minister, who is also unwell.