Goa needs to watch this art very carefully because 2019 should only be about a better Goa
His demeanour is akin to a stealth bomber. He floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. He is India’s political Muhammad Ali. In March 2017, the absolute turning of political tables, in less than 48 hours, further established his political ruthlessness in sculpting the Goa government, not by slow motions of chiselling a la Michael Angelo, but like a Red Indian knife thrower.
What Amit Shah will do in the two days he is here, and that has already commenced is to initiate the process of gradually making this coalition a BJP dominant one at the grassroots while maintaining coalition dharma in government. But in his languid walk with a hint of a smile emanating, Shah is rebooting the BJP organisation in Goa, cleaning it of its cobwebs. Let there be no illusion that the BJP in the grassroots is not battle ready. The facade of government formation, left a handful of BJP MLAs simply waiting for the storm to pass, with the only silver lining amongst the debris of defeat, being that they will not spend the next five years in opposition. But that offers little solace.
In that large coastal swathe from Siolim to Pernem, defeated BJP candidates are witnessing a real power shift in Goa Forward and MGP ruled constituencies. The heavyweights who tumbled by the way side in their bastions – Laxmikant Parsekar, Dayanand Mandrekar, Dilip Parulekar and Rajendra Arlekar – have moved into states of oblivion. The last time Mr Parsekar was seen in public was during Manohar Parrikar’s swearing in, a symbolic handing over of the baton from the vanquished to the victor. Mandrekar, Parulekar and Arlekar have logged off from the landscape though they do respond when contacted.
Amit Shah’s task is cut out. There is no ambiguity that the present BJP, will not win seats by the “otherisation” of the minorities. He is likely to make this his top point in his to do list, which is: 1) Do not fall too far behind in seats the BJP has conceded. 2) Work with the panchyats to push “development” and schemes to win back lost ground and bank on the Modi effect. The alpha male in the room is Modi and Amit Shah made this very clear in all his meetings that, he would lead the party with regional leaders in supportive roles.
The tightrope that the BJP is walking on is fragile and bending under the weight of doubt and apprehension among a section of the minorities. But so far, the BJP and the Goa Forward have handled this interestingly, though we do not quite know if this was planned. When the VHP called for a beef ban in Goa, GF leader and TCP Minister Vijai Sardesai rushed to say that the government will step in to ban the entry of such elements who try to disturb the communal harmony of the State as was done with Pramod Muthalik. He interestingly said that secular Hindus will fight against any such ban, clearly claiming a critical constituency.
But this wasn’t really a blip. The agenda emerged yet again. The MGP in Goa echoed Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s demand that cow slaughter be banned across India, by suggesting a blanket ban in Goa and the closure of the Goa Meat Complex located at Usgao in North Goa. MGP president Deepak Dhavalikar himself made the demand last week.
One young BJP leader who is moving up the ranks from Tiswadi had a very interesting observation to make on this dichotomy, which was actually like a penny dropping. “Vijai is doing the job for us on the minority front. The pressure is not on us if an ally is making the right statements,” he said.
While Sardesai is clearly doing this to spread his political ground, the BJP is clearly feeding off his statements as a safety net. The master sculptor Shah is also fine tuning his narrative and stand depending on his audience. He had three meetings on Saturday, the first a luncheon with allies and MLAs, the second a meeting of the panchas where 688 panchas turned up, much more than the invited 500, including, interestingly, panchas from the Sangolda panchayat, where the BJP backed panchas did not win, And the third was a meeting with professionals from various sectors.
While the first two were closed door meetings, Herald has learnt that it was focussed totally on Narendra Modi’s thrust on the panchayati raj institutions. But in his evening meeting with professionals, he changed tack and blamed the Congress for introducing a bill to ban cow slaughter and made an overture to the minorities that the agenda would be inclusive and not divisive.
This begs the question, who will deliver on this promise. When the BJP in Goa, is feeding off its allies statements protesting against the VHP, Pramod Muthalik and the beef ban, will this continue to be the template?
Amit Shah’s in an interview to Open magazine earlier this year, had said, “In politics, you are in an era where you either perform or perish.”
This “performance” will take place only when the foundation of security has been laid. And this is a balm that has to be supplied by the Centre and applied by Goa. Any government admits that the creation of jobs, increasing the earning capacity and using land only when stakeholders have worked intensely in its creation. But what next?
The government has to work in the waddos and the panchayats, only then will it work in Panjim, Margao and Porvorim.
Each week, Herald goes to the ground and comes back with reports which give you the true picture of the government at work. And it isn’t a pretty picture. But this malaise cuts across governments and parties. It is Goa’s malaise.
The Congress meanwhile needs to chose a new GPCC chief, go back to villages and strengthen the blocks. But the Congress has bickered openly with vicious statements emanating from the Curtorim MLA Alexio Reginaldo Lourenco against Luizinho Faleiro.
2019 is about getting an early start. And the future will tango with forces who are first off their feet. The fulcrum of battle in a state like Goa will pivot around BJP’s ideology push and its pragmatism push.
If the BJP is pushing its way towards totalitarianism, is it surprising. And if it uses pragmatism as a balancing strategy given the nature of Goa, that too isn’t surprising. But Goans should never lose sight of the fundamentals of Goa in protecting the fabric of Goa which has been inclusive and secular
We would like to end this piece with a reference and thought as your takeaway. Hannah Arendt, German American political philosopher in her treatise on totalitarian states, says millions come to believe that “everything was possible and that nothing was true.”
The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them ― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of
While there is no obvious connect to India, it does remain a voice in the heart.