In March 2017, when the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party was reduced to 13 members in the Legislative Assembly and in danger of losing power that it had held for five years, the party acted fast, and in the dead of the night cleared the name of the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to head a coalition government in Goa. BJP got to its corner all the non-Congress parties and the Independents to show a strength of 22 MLAs in the House. Exactly 18 months later, with the Chief Minister ailing and in hospital, the same BJP is making heavy weather of finding a replacement for him, and there appears to be no consensus on even whether the ailing Chief Minister should be replaced or not.
Why can’t the speed displayed in March 2017 be repeated now, when governance is at a standstill? Coalition partners and BJP MLAs are themselves on record to say that the administration is suffering, but the party in power appears to show no hurry in remedying the situation. The debate has now turned towards whether there needs to be a permanent solution or a temporary arrangement to the current political and governance situation in the State. As this debate carries on, and while BJP’s Central observers sit down with the local party MLAs and the local party core committee to arrive at a decision, it is Goa that suffers.
Ironically, the reasons proffered by the BJP Central observers for the meetings are organisational matters like the ensuing Lok Sabha elections, and the MGP that also met the observers claimed to have discussed the restarting of mining operations and other issues, and not a change in leadership. Seriously, do the politicians in Goa expect that at a time like this, when the entire State and even the national media is focusing on a change of leadership in Goa, that subterfuge can be used to keep the truth away from the people? The truth is that the State needs a Chief Minister who can lead Goa from his office in the State secretariat and not have files taken to his hospital room or cabinet decisions taken via circulation. The news coming from Delhi, where the Chief Minister is currently admitted at AIIMS, says that he may be flown to New York once again for treatment. If that happens, Goa will need to have a new Chief Minister to lead the State.
The big question is: Can BJP deliver? Can it give the State a leader to head the coalition government that is managed to cobble 18 months ago? The absence of a second rung leadership in the BJP has been thoroughly exposed in the past few weeks, to the extent that the national party may have to hand over the reins of government to the leader of a regional party and though having a larger number of MLAs play second fiddle in the next dispensation. To hold on to power it is now beginning to look increasingly clear that the BJP may be prepared to do just that in the State.
With the BJP Central observers having returned to Delhi to confer with the BJP president and report on the confabulations in Goa, an announcement on the future could be expected in the coming days. Goa will then know whether it is getting a new Chief Minister or a temporary arrangement. Sadly, Goa does not deserve temporary arrangements when it comes to government. There are far too many issues that are pending at the moment, and the State needs a government that will act fast, rather than an administration that is held back by the absence of its ministers and the chief minister.