Herald: Ostrich syndrome in the government

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Ostrich syndrome in the government

26 Jan 2019 06:40am IST
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26 Jan 2019 06:40am IST

Congress states on one day that it believes the dissolution of House is imminent and the very next day the government finds the need to clarify that there is no danger to the stability of the coalition and that it will complete the five-year term, which means it has another three years and over a month to go. Rarely has the government reacted so quickly to an opposition charge of this nature, which leads to the question of whether the Bharatiya Janata Party was negating what the Congress was saying, or was it reassuring its own allies that all was well and that there was no need of fearing dissolution of the House and fresh elections.

The BJP response came, not so much because of what the Congress said, but because Goa Forward Party president Vijai Sardesai asked the chief minister to get a senior party functionary to respond, as the Congress charge indicates there is instability in the government. While BJP clarified on this rather tersely, Sardesai says there is no ostensible reason for dissolution of the Assembly, and that dissolution stems from political instability. The undercurrents in the coalition have surfaced far too often to believe that the ruling dispensation is a house built on sturdy rock. The second half of the last year saw much time spent on leaders of all coalition parties dashing to New Delhi as a leadership change had appeared imminent, even at times being forced by allies. If that’s not indicative of instability, what is?

The government’s response came on the day the Congress was protesting the Coastal Regulation Zone notification at Miramar, rather uniquely, by getting its members to bury themselves in the sand. Strangely, it appears that on the same day the government was burying its head in the sand by pretending and asserting that all was well with the coalition. It is pertinent to note that this is definitely not the best of times for the BJP, the main party in the government, as it faces a stiff challenge from within its own ranks in the by-polls, due anytime soon in Shiroda and Mandrem. Not only is an ally – Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party – raring to enter the poll arena, two of BJP’s senior leaders may part ways with the party and challenge the official party candidate. 

What does it signify, when a junior coalition partner challenges the larger party in a by-election that the latter is looking at to cement its place at the head of the alliance? This is the same party that has in the past months demanded that charge be given to the senior most minister in the coalition in the absence of the chief minister, and the party that had said it would take a decision on its future course of action if the mining issue is not resolved by December 15. The mining issue remains unresolved, but there is no new decision from the MGP, even more than a month later. But, surely this is not an example of stability in the coalition. 

Only a victory by a large margin in both constituencies will help the BJP save face and continue as the undisputed leader in the alliance with a firm hold over the other parties. For BJP, at this point of time, that is a tough ask. The cracks in the coalition are there. They have been visible for months, and an ostrich-like approach of burying the head in the sand at the first sign of imminent danger will not serve to strengthen the government. It will just postpone the inevitable, and disgruntled alliance partners will keep applying the pressure on the larger party to score a small win or two.

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