Any enterprise, business or otherwise, is normally evaluated according to quarterly results. The first quarter is not really about numbers but about feel. The impatience of the people about the way Goa was being governed and the never ending slide into the abyss of discontent, peaked, resulting in a mandate against the ruling party. Power became a clear enterprise to throw up a government whose combined contours were politically shocking. But that’s history.
Short of a fortnight to the first quarter, looking back on what might have been will take time and effort away from what we should be. While the angst of a mandate snatched does ring true, especially in vast swathes of Salcette, the ruling coalition has to make the transition from power to governance. But an approach to governance has to be vastly different from the standard template.
What Goa needs is the assuaging of apprehensions, the quelling of the belief in some users that the communal vigilantism perpetrated by fringe right wing groups will affect Goa’s life and livelihoods. This is needed because the government needs to ensure that the vast sections of people who voted against the party which leads the coalition, and were expecting a different government – perhaps a Congress led one – need to be worked on and confidence injected back in them. It needs to know that able administration can only be a gift horse, if the first dose of administration reflects a will to take care of the feelings and fears of a majority, which has reason to be apprehensive of this dispensation.
But there is a silver lining where this can be made possible. Behind all the numbers which has made this government formation possible, there is an even bigger number. There are 26 MLAs in the current house strength of 38 who are not from the BJP. And this number will remain in the back of the book and back of the mind calculations of the BJP. The “allies”, whether they are temporary passengers on a rickety boat or political besties – will have – all to play for. And that is the supreme and queer irony that Goa is plagued with. While this may be a sword with sharp edges, it still remains the only armour against the Goa being caught in the vortex of controversies that comes with powerful centre moving in to our bedrooms and our kitchens. Goa, inspite of all alarms, has managed to keep itself free of this fire but just about.
When the VHP held a press conference in Goa and made one of its typical remarks as about banning beef consumption in Goa and making Goa a beefless state, there was natural angst. Goa Forward’s lead minister, Vijai Sardesai, on behalf of the government, reacted by saying that elements like the VHP, by making such statements, would be dealt with under law. A couple of days later Chief Minister Parrikar echoed the statement and the issue was quelled.
Secondly, on the issue of dates for the panchayat elections, Panchayat Minister Mauvin Godinho announced that the polls will be held on the day after the Sao Jao festival and these would be frozen. It took the intervention of quite a few ministers, led by the allies, to get the Chief Minister to ask the Panchayat Minister to reschedule the dates. If the earlier dates were persisted with and a dry day was announced, due to the code of conduct, on Sao Jao day, this would have led to backlash from the minorities.
Other allies are pulling their weight too. Tourism Minister Babu Azgaonkar of the MGP put his foot down to decide on the tender and contract awarding process for the next beach cleaning contractor even though this falls completely in the domain of the Waste Management Corporation in which BJP’s Calangute MLA Michael Lobo is one of the directors. The Chief Minster gently persuaded Lobo to let the Tourism Minister have his way
Meanwhile some of the virtual fortresses have been breached, the Investment Promotion Board for instance. It was almost a no-go fortress where decisions were taken but hardly questioned, and if questioned were brushed aside. The decision to re look at all investments cleared by the IPB is an indictment – but much needed – of the manner in which this key body has functioned. With the IPB being a key to investments and also branding of the State, the Chief Minister has privately expressed concern about some of the negative feedback around the body. Incidentally one of the most controversial decisions taken by the Parsekar government of effectively declassifying the coconut tree from the list of trees, was linked to the permission given by the IPB to Vani Agro to set up a beer and spirits factory in Sanguem which involved chopping a large number of coconut trees.
On all these fronts, a course correction is in progress. It is now learnt that a proposal mooted to make the coconut as Goa’s State tree, is likely to be cleared by the Chief Minister and taken through the legislative process.
Eventually the change Goa will want to witness is the devolution and the rejection of fringe fanaticism which may lurk even on the borders of Goa and trying to enter. The biggest check on the government has to come from the people – in the absence of the Congress pulling its weight as an opposition despite its numbers – and the BJP’s dependence on the non-BJP MLAs, though the two factors may not be co related.
There is a flip side to this. For three months, the BJP hasn’t quite faced the real tough questions about jobs and employment, economy and investments. This has given the government more time to assess the damage of the past. But gradually these will become big ticket issues. Till then, the challenge is to manage perceptions and keep undemocratic vigilantes at bay.
Manohar Parrikar lost the electoral battle in March 2017 but won the political one. But a worry free governance of a kind not witnessed before is the only way for a clean start again. That is the important take away from the first quarter.