The cabinet meeting held on Thursday last week led to a major altercation between two ministers from among the allies, and yet this is not a new phenomenon in the State. There have been such individual fights in the past, with Ministers quibbling over minor matters as larger issues affecting the State and its governance are given short shrift. While not all arguments among ministers may have occurred during a cabinet meeting, ministers not seeing eye-to-eye on issues is not a surprise any longer. It is almost expected given the divergent ideologies that make up the government. Yet, the differences are not on matters of ideology, but personal concerns.
While the latest argument was between PWD Minister Ramkrishna (Sudin) Dhavalikar and Art and Culture Minister Govind Gaude regarding delays affecting projects in the latter’s constituency, a few days earlier there were differences between Dhavalikar and TCP Minister Vijai Sardesai on the delay in constructing the Margao bus stand. Before that during a cabinet meeting RDA Minister Jayesh Salgaocar had raised the issue of the most number of junior engineers recruited in the Electricity Department being from Power Minister Nilesh Cabral’s constituency. Yet another argument was between Dhavalikar and Tourism Minister Manohar (Babu) Azgaonkar regarding development works in the latter’s Pernem constituency.
Notice that all these recent arguments between ministers are regarding works in their constituencies and are not regarding any of the myriad issues affecting the State. It has perennially been the grouse of the MLAs of the opposition parties – any opposition in any State for that matter – that projects in their constituencies are not taken up by the government, and there have been defections by MLAs from the opposition to the ruling side, to get development in their constituencies. Development should not be correlated to or dependent on the political colours of the MLA. But this has been happening, and no party will ever consider putting an end to this, as when the opposition gets the opportunity to govern, it does the same.
So, while this gripe of no or delayed projects undertaken in their constituencies is still heard from the opposition, in Goa we now have ministers complaining of the same, negating the belief that MLAs from the ruling party or coalition divert projects and programmes to their constituencies. In this case, it is not just MLAs of the ruling coalition, but ministers who are complaining of delays to projects, getting into argument with their cabinet colleagues. Who then is cornering a major share of government projects, if it is not the constituencies represented by the ministers? Will somebody answer this query, or will we be left to draw out conclusions based on available facts?
These complaints from the ministers give credence to the belief that governance in the State has dropped to such abysmal levels that there is a complete lack of development in the State or that favouritism in recruitment is occurring. Recall that it was some of the same ministers, who are now in tussle with their colleagues, who were themselves complaining of administrative failure in the past months. These are not the common people who are making allegations, but the elected representatives and ministers of the government, so their statements carry additional weight. Their complaints are an indictment of the government they are a part of.
While nepotism should find no place in a democracy, the preferential treatment accorded to the MLAs who occupy the treasury benches in the Legislative Assembly is a known fact. It is, however, an appalling policy to follow as it leads to an imbalance in development. While travelling in the rural areas, this imbalance can actually be seen, through the condition of the roads, as a smooth ride over a road abruptly ends leading to a bumpy trip, when the vehicle crosses the boundary from one constituency to another. Such a policy will lead to more such experiences.