Through most of the day on which former chief minister Manohar Parrikar’s was taking place, there was just one name that was being spoken of as the next chief minister of Goa.
It was of Sanquelim MLA Pramod Sawant, the Speaker who had deftly handled the short Budget session of the Legislative Assembly in January this year, and also those before that. His choice didn’t ring any surprise as his was the name that was often proffered during the past year, every time there was a discussion on a change of leadership to replace the then ailing Parrikar. So when the time came for a new person to step into the office of the chief minister, Sawant’s was almost an automatic choice for the party, even if the allies did have much to say about it.
Sawant, MLA for the second term, has kept a low profile throughout, but he was among the confidantes that Parrikar had kept close to him. Even from his hospital bed in the USA, it was Sawant who Parrikar would contact to issue instructions and get feedback from. It was Sawant as Speaker who unfurled the National Flag in the absence of Parrikar on National Days, a clear indication that he was the chosen successor, but had little to say about the succession. In January, speaking to Herald on the possibility of him occupying the chief minister’s chair, Sawant had said, “I do not want to speak anything on that as it is unfair, but as I said Manoharbhai has shown tremendous trust in me in the past and present. I will always remain indebted to him.”
There is a big debt that remains to be paid now that Sawant has picked up the baton left behind by Parrikar. Not only are there challenges for the government, which include a solution to the mining imbroglio and the Regional Plan, but there are political challenges, the biggest of all being handling the pressures of a coalition government and keeping the allies in good harmony. That is something that Sawant, should have learnt a trick or two from Parrikar, may be able to pull off admirably. But the young man that he is, there is a lot for him to learn in this area of politics, especially as he steps into government for the first time with no experience of being a cabinet minister.
The new chief minister cannot expect the position to be easy and has to remember that what kept Goa from getting a government for over 24 hours after Parrikar breathed his last were the demands of the allies. He finally took oath of office, late in the night, only after the demands were met. Giving in easily to the demands of those keeping him in office, will make managing the alliance more difficult as alliance partners, taking this as a sign of weakness, could add items to their list of requests and there won’t always be a Central leader in the State to mediate and bring about a solution, as was done on Monday.
Sawant, who also has a RSS background, is the only current BJP MLA to have risen through the ranks in the party, starting his political activism with the youth wing. He has pointed this out in the past, speaking on how PM Narendra Modi or former Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan also scaled the political ladder from the party’s youth wing, asserting that the BJP takes care of its karyakartas. Sawant today, can have no regrets of having been loyal to the party. It has taken care of him and rewarded him. Now, he has to take care of the State, and give back to it, just as the party has given to him.
The road ahead for him will be fraught with difficulties, and the mentor he could earlier turn to is no longer there. As Sawant takes up the helm and steers the course for the State, we will be keeping watch and suggesting course corrections where necessary.