Goa has entered a phase of political flux with the death of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. Two years ago, the MLAs who had banded together to form the government had said they were there backing Parrikar and not the Bharatiya Janata Party. This was reiterated even a day before the death of the Chief Minister by Goa Forward Party president Vijai Sardesai, when he said, “We were with MP unequivocally, no ifs and buts. We will not speak on hypothetical questions. But we will be together. We cannot comment whether we will be with BJP post Parrikar.”
The post-Parrikar phase came just 24 hours later. What is the future now for the allies who for two years reiterated time and again that their support was for Manohar Parrikar and Manohar Parrikar alone? Will they stand by this and break ties with the saffron party or will they continue to walk alongside the BJP in Goa under a new leader?
As the sun set on the Parrikar era, the ruling coalition allies went into a huddle to find a consensus leader who could don the mantle of chief minister of Goa. There was no prior preparation here. BJP’s lack of a second rung leadership was exposed when there was nobody from among the MLAs who could be called upon to lead a new government. During the year Parrikar remained confined to bed, he was not replaced as the party feared it could lose power if it brought some other MLA to take charge. This can happen even now. BJP’s crisis of leadership in the State could lead to their having to forfeit the chief minister’s post.
Such was the manner in which the BJP and the allies were unprepared for this day, that there was speculation in the early morning that BJP’s former stalwart, Digambar Kamat would return to the party fold. Late evening he declared that he was still with the Congress, the party he had embraced after quitting the BJP.
As the BJP and allies began scouting for a new chief minister, on the other side, Congress went into another huddle seeking an appointment with the Governor to stake claim to form the government on the reason that they were the single largest party in the House. The party had dashed off two letters to the Governor on Saturday staking claim to form the government, and sent another on Sunday where they stressed on the fact that the allies had pledged their support to Parrikar alone, arguing that this meant the BJP had no coalition partners now.
In the aftermath of the death of Parrikar, the fate of the BJP-led coalition of MGP, GFP and Independents hangs in balance. There are too many divergent opinions among the parties whose ideologies are well established and too far apart from each other to find common ground. In a way, Parrikar was the glue that kept them all together and the government stable. The only thing that could retain the coalition now is the desire to remain in positions of power. But whatever is decided to keep the coalition from crumbling, could at best be a very short term experiment.
Stability can now be ruled out for the immediate future. Political uncertainty and the possibility of dissolution of the Legislative Assembly at some point loom large over the State. The latter may actually become a reality, as a brief spell of President’s Rule during which time the Legislative Assembly is kept in suspended animation was being spoken of on Sunday night. There were deep fissures in the Parrikar government, a war of words had erupted several times, who from the current batch of MLAs will have the strength to keep this in check when it surfaces again?
Parrikar’s illness had sent the government and the administration into a tailspin, from where to recover the State will need strong leadership, which the weakened coalition today will not be able to provide. The political uncertainty will gnaw at the weak foundation upon which any new government will be formed now.
But Goa needs a strong government, with a firm leader at the helm who will hasten up the processes that remained unattended in the past year, when the State saw a failure of governance. The polity cannot fail the people in this. That is the least that is asked from this batch of MLAs elected two years ago and who have still to prove their mettle.