It is common knowledge that Calangute MLA Michael Lobo has been nursing a grouse ever since he was overlooked for a ministerial berth in March 2017 when the current government was formed. He is often dubbed as the architect of the government, the man who convinced the regional parties to support the BJP and join the coalition, and he has never denied this, though he may have not admitted it in public either. He accepted the Deputy Speaker’s post, but even on the floor of the House he has been the only MLA from the treasury benches who has taken on the government on various issues, sometimes almost as if he was an opposition member grilling the government. But on Friday, Lobo took the attack to another level, this time there were the undercurrents of a revolt visible as he spoke from a public platform attacking the governments in the State and the Centre, and questioning the efficacy of the Lok Sabha MPs, both who are from his party, one of them a Union Minister.
Just days after being again ignored for a ministerial berth, Lobo, using the mining affected people’s agitation, did not bother to sugarcoat his attack, targeting the governments at the Centre and the State, and also the two MPs from Goa present and listening to him, and even naming them in case there was any doubt of who he was meaning. “Our sitting MPs, Shripad Naik and Narendra Sawaikar, have no right to fill the form for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. We cannot blame anybody as in both the places our party is ruling. We cannot blame Congress or anyone else. It is BJP government who is to be blamed.” With Lok Sabha polls just about six months, the BJP would not want to hear such statements from their own members. The attack did not end there, as Lobo asked why the State needs to be represented in Delhi, if the MPs can’t solve the mining issue.
For the BJP, that takes pride in being different and disciplined, this is new to the party, which in the absence of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, may find it difficult to tackle. But then it was a day, when Lobo gave vent to his feelings, and there was nothing much the party could do other than watch and listen. Earlier the same day he announced that he had written to the Chief Minister on filling up the vacancies in government departments, and addressing the media in his constituency had said, “I do not know why the CM is sitting with all these files. I request him through this letter to give one of your ministers the job to give the vacancies to the youth of Goa… They have gone because the Goa Government is not taking care of the common people.” That’s a direct attack and in the kind of language that even the Opposition has not been using, and it is indeed the language of revolt. It is as if the MLA is challenging the party to act against him.
Lobo has spoken loudly and clearly. The party and the government have heard him. But are they listening? Lobo has encapsulated much of what has been the general trend of discussions in public and on social media. It is not new, but its freshness stems from the fact that it comes from the Deputy Speaker who is a MLA of the party in government. The rumblings in the BJP are out in the open. There is work to be done to settle them, if not it will only lead to the spark that has been lit, being fanned into a flame of revolt.