The element that keeps most coalition governments in this country together is saliva, not glue. It is the quest, accomplishment and retaining of power which is not just a mission, but an addiction and those who salivate are the ones who achieve. This is a cold hard reality of politics but is ingrained into every cell of coalition politics. And over time, while the BJP has begun to master at the art of salivating for power, the Congress is indeed ‘drying up’.
As the search begins for the first serious Congress president of Goa, after the resignation of Luizinho Faleiro who led Congress to the driveway of power, without quite getting to the front door, the Congress “high command” should realise that they are not choosing a president of a social club, but the single largest party in the Assembly in Goa, which has unfortunately lost sight of the fact that they were within earshot of power, if they got their act together. The courage to even try and upset the BJP, is lacking in many senior Congress MLAs. Secretly, the impending fear in the minds of a few Congressmen clearly, and let us say this upfront, is that their skeletons and past acts of omission and ‘commission’, will come to home to roost if they incur the wrath of the BJP. The saliva of power in this case, is tasteless with the fear of a political backlash.
The Congress, for the sake of itself and for the people in 16 constituencies, (assuming that the voters of Vishwajit Rane voted for him and not for the Congress), needs a leader who is power hungry.
The party and its supporters have suffered the choices of the political leadership post the last Assembly elections. When Luizinho Faleiro was almost cornered into resigning, Shantaram Naik was drafted in to merely hold fort, not to aggressively lead the party into the enemy camp. Naik rambled along from press conference to press conference with no intent, strategy, aggression or alacrity. But to be fair to him, this wasn’t his shortcoming. He was just being himself. Fingers must be pointed at those who suggested his name and finally the man who picked him. Can the worthies of the Goa Congress who wanted anybody to replace Luizinho Faleiro, who they were gunning for, have the courage to openly admit that they backed Shantaram Naik to be the GPCC chief, at a time Goa needed a constant diatribe of dynamism, in speech and deportment of the party, and not someone on whom the burden of failure rested heavy? To be honest this was not Naik’s burden to bear. He had served out a decent accomplished term in the Rajya Sabha and should have at best been used as a backroom resource working on issues and strategising how they could be best used politically.
As the exercise to zero in on the next president takes place, we hope the Goa desk in-charge Chella Kumar didn’t arrive in Goa with his mind pre-made. He has been less than discreet about his choice of Girish Chodankar, who for many reasons has been the AICC’s poster boy in Goa. While there is no reason to discount his candidature because he indeed does tick many boxes, including that of being the chief organiser of Luizinho Faleiro’s state wide padyatra before the 2017 elections, the circumstances which the Congress finds itself in, should force it to look less for a name but more for a type, who will ultimately pursue and deliver power.
If the Congress’ purpose is to sit in the opposition and pontificate on the government’s perceived failures, then it might as well register itself as an NGO.
This is the age of pragmatic politics and that is all about having friends across political camps. This is something the Congress should learn from one its own, Sharad Pawar. Even after leaving the Congress, Pawar’s brand of politics makes him relevant beyond the relevance of his own party, the NCP. In the rest of the country, the Congress appears to have realised this and is keen to work to with leaders who put delivery on a priority, like Captain Amrinder Singh, Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot and Ashok Chavan. The choice of the next GPCC president will indicate how keen the party is to give aggressive leadership which intends to wrest power and strategise accordingly.
The Congress in Goa too knew the art of working with those who worked against them. In 1999 Francisco Sardinha left with six MLAs and formed the Goa People’s Congress and became Chief Minister. In 2002 Ravi Naik defected from the Congress and became Deputy Chief Minister under Manohar Parrikar. Both Sardinha and Naik are senior leaders of the Congress now with the former trying for yet another Lok Sabha ticket while the latter has not yet given up hope of becoming GPCC chief. The present day Congress, of late has seen political differences of a passing nature as long term family disputes which has affected its powers of negotiation and government formation.
The BJP on the other hand has mastered the art of forming governments by breaking away members of other parties especially the Congress. If they have Mauvin Godinho, Pandurang Madkaikar and Vishwajit Rane in Goa and a former Congressman Vijai Sardesai as an ally, in Meghalaya, they are backing a government of a former Congressman Conrad Sangma and son of an even more illustrious Congress leader the late Purno Sangma, who could have once even become a consensus Prime Minister.
The Congress needs to adapt to the syllabus of 2019 and not of 1960. This is about real politic. The syllabus of 2019, doesn’t account for space for organisation and party building, if it doesn’t come with the fruit of power. And while that was a low hanging fruit after the 2017 assembly elections, it still remains a fruit which can be attainable if the desire and guts exists. Which is why, the Congress, for its own sake, needs a president who will go for that fruit of power.
The ground realities, one may argue, gives little hope of infusing not just hope, but the aspiration to take a serious shot at power. But the truth is that the future of the Congress in Goa is linked deeply to getting power. While there may be a thinking that the weight of anti-incumbency will make the fruit of power low hanging, it still won’t be enough if the Congress does not display aggressive politics of numbers at any cost. For the grand old party, a fresh new aggression is its way forward.