The decision of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) to withdraw the support it had been giving to the coalition government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will have absolutely no bearing on the stability of the government, at least not in the very immediate future.
The Pramod Sawant government has the numbers in the Legislative Assembly to continue in power, even without the support of the single MGP MLA Ramkrishna (Sudin) Dhavalikar. Besides, the decision of the MGP was expected, and even when Dhavalikar was dropped from the cabinet, the BJP would have foreseen the possibility of the regional ally withdrawing from the coalition. Dhavalikar would not have been sacked as deputy chief minister and dropped from the cabinet if the BJP thought that this action would in any manner affect the government.
However, this sacking of the MGP stalwart is leading to a realignment of political alliances that may have a bearing on the government in the months down the line. MGP has for the first time in a long period gone to the opposition side even sharing a dais with the Congress in an election campaign. For the first time in two decades Goa’s oldest regional party is not walking in tandem with the government but is on the opposition side. In fact, Dhavalikar himself has been a permanent fixture in governments as minister since 2002, no matter who has been heading the cabinet. MGP has had the knack of aligning with the stronger party and being part of whichever coalition takes over the reins of the State.
Now, the political alignment has changed. MGP is cozying up to the Congress, which is in the opposition, and in a major move MGP’s president Pandurang (Deepak) Dhavalikar accompanied Congress North Goa candidate Girish Chodankar on one day during the latter’s election campaign in Priol, and the next day Sudin Dhavalikar was with the Congress candidate for South Goa, Francisco Sardinha, in Marcaim. When was the last time Congress and MGP seen together on the same electoral campaign platform? They have been in government together, each needing the support of the other to stay in power, but supporting each other in elections has been rare.
For MGP, the rift with the BJP appears to be deep and the break almost final. Of course, there are never any permanent enemies in politics, but the fissure in the BJP-MGP tie is not likely to heal anytime soon. It needs to band together with the Congress so that its one-MLA legislative party remains relevant. For the Congress, which is desperate to reaffirm its position as a major party in State politics, the political realignment with the MGP gives it a boost in the two Lok Sabha seats that it hopes to wrest from the BJP. Wins here, and in any of the Assembly seats where by-elections are being held, will re-establish the party in the State, losses will further reduce its influence, perhaps even create fissures in the legislative wing of the party.
The political climate in the State is very delicate and the alliances glued very lightly. The current realignments will, however, get solidified or be liquidated, only after May 23, after the votes have been counted and it is known which party will be forming the government at the Centre. Until then the parties will play their game of political one-upmanship. One thing though is certain, the MGP still has the power to change the shape of politics and change governments in Goa. It may have one MLA, but the party has a sizeable vote bank and a lot is going to depend on what those voters do on April 23.
The by-elections in four Assembly constituencies and the elections to the two Lok Sabha seats are turning out to be very crucial to the continuance of the government, given the changes in the political configuration in the State. Ten per cent of the State’s Assembly is going to change on May 23 when the votes are counted. Much will depend on what the voters do when they go out to vote. About 1 lakh people are eligible to vote for the new MLAs, and these are the ones who could make changes in Goan politics.