The Bharatiya Janata Party has been reiterating continuously that there is no leadership crisis in the State. Even after a three-member team of Central observers came to Goa over the weekend and met all the BJP MLAs and the alliance partners, even after the three BJP MPs from Goa met the party National president in Delhi, the official line being taken is that the leadership issue was not discussed and it was restarting of mining and the preparations for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections that were on the agenda of the meetings.
The ground situation is different. The Constitutionally appointed head of government, who has sworn an oath of office and secrecy is absent from the State and there is nobody to replace him. Goa then returns to being headless, as it has been for much of this year. So far in 2018, we have had a three-member CAC guiding the government, and then rather strangely to a bureaucrat – the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister – being given the authority to handle the administration. And now, when he is again taking treatment at AIIMS, Delhi, there is neither a CAC appointed nor charge given to anyone, at least as yet, though latest reports suggest the appointment of a Deputy Chief Minister.
In a Chief Minister’s absence, even when he is going out of the country on an official tour, the usual norm is to hand over the charge to another minister so that administration and governance is not hampered. This charge has not been delegated. If there are complaints of the government not being responsive to the citizens, in this case is not even listening to some of its own ministers who have said that the absence of the Chief Minister has impacted the administration. It is also not listening to its own coalition partners who have sought that the senior most minister be given the charge.
It is now certain – even if the BJP does not admit it – that there is a dearth of leaders in the party. The BJP has not succeeded in finding a single MLA who can lead the coalition government, even temporarily, while its Chief Minister remains admitted in hospital. For a party that takes pride in being different, in Goa it has not been able to quell infighting or even ward off the dictates of the Central leadership. Yet, given the composition of the party today, this does not surprise. For, though Goa has a BJP-led government, there is little of the BJP ideology to be seen in the government today.
The State cabinet is constituted by three ministers from the Goa Forward Party, two from the MGP, two Independents, and five from the BJP. Due to the illness of the ministers, three of the BJP ministers, including the Chief Minister, are not at work. The only two BJP ministers who are attending office are new entrants to the party – Mauvin Godinho and Vishwajit Rane – who quit the Congress, both within the last 22 months, to unite with the saffron party. Pandurang Madkaikar, one of the BJP ministers who is ill, is also a recent convert to the BJP, having been with the Congress until late last year.
The lack of leadership perhaps stems from the short term gains that the party sought in the run up to the 2017 elections, when it searched for ‘winnability’ as the main, and in certain cases only, criteria for selecting its candidates. While this has been the bane of most parties, the fallout of this is most visible in the political mess that Goa has descended into.
The State is in for another spell of governance slowdown as the main party in the coalition refuses to accept that there is need to bring in at least a ‘temporary’ arrangement to keep the wheels of government in motion. Though a temporary arrangement would not serve the entire purpose, it would ensure that pressing matters are attended to.