Increasingly, but surely and irrevocably, the political space in Goa is looking like a cosmos of free floaters. Like in space, MLAs, principally of the opposition but it includes some of the ruling as well, are floating in a gravity defying atmosphere where getting grounded and sticking to one dispensation or political ground is becoming really tough. But the principal opposition Congress MLAs of Goa look like negatively charged electrons floating to positively charged protons for a future fusion.
If you see a saffron coated Vishwajit Rane who claims that the whole of Sattari is awash with the colour and will be more so, because his dad Pratapsingh Rane will not contest another term, what he does mean is that even Senior Rane has no intention or wherewithal or desire to protect his bastion as a Congress one, and it doesn’t really matter to him as long as his family rules. The uniform of political choice is of least significance, as long as victory is guaranteed. And so the word is well and truly out. Since Pratapsingh Rane has not commented or clarified this yet, he has surrendered, either out of absolute will or coercion, to his son’s politics and his political party. He is very much an electron who has indeed fused with the BJP proton as much as his son has.
The Rane factor is indeed done and dusted. And if the junior wins Valpoi and his handpicked puppet or another family member wins Poriem post his father’s “retirement”, it will be a reflection too, of how people shift with their local satrap, since the Republic of Sattari, in this case, can and have only one Raja.
The giant ground shift that is taking place in Goa’s politics has to be watched and felt because it’s a tectonic shift. From a time when there were regional satraps like Vishwajit Rane, Babush Monserrate, Churchill Alemao who kept winning and losing, and Mickky Pacheco, who did the same, the current mix of Goa’s MLAs have a very strong sense of their own fiefdoms and a greater sense that it is they, and not their party, who will have to work towards strengthening their base. No MLA is, or will, work towards strengthening his party, selflessly in his area. He is clearly working for himself and entire focus is to befriend and work with those who will help him achieve this end.
It’s important to understand the grammar of this political shift. And one may see this as a process by one party to wean away MLAs from another party to position themselves as kingmakers and kings in any government formation. While that may be the case, the reasons for these shifts are not always and not solely governed by alternate government formation. The contours of governance from now on will emanate from how MLAs and MLA hopefuls manage to take control over their constituencies by 2019 or 2022. So for each MLA, becoming the reason why these two years are picked is important. During the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, the two men who have the last two words in each decision India takes, will decide of the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections should be tagged. In Goa’s case the Chief Minister may well dissolve the house paving way for fresh elections. And if that doesn’t happen then 2022 is the next election year.
Either in 2019 or in 2022, the MLAs, devoid of any party affiliation will either “agree” to contest on their present party ticket or opt for an alternative which will enhance their chances of getting re-elected. And that includes a string of Congress MLAs who are absolutely free birds, who are making moves to secure their own personal political futures. At this juncture even leaving the Congress is not their plan. Nor is the Goa Forward, who these MLAs are closely hobnobbing with, planning to get them to resign and contest on their tickets.
What is going on is simple. A section of the Congress MLAs, see themselves devoid of either their party or their leadership. And this includes at least two MLAs who were handpicked by Luizinho Faleiro, to move from their panchayats and Zilla Parishads to become MLAs Wilfred ‘Babashan’ D’Sa (Nuvem) and Clafacio Dias (Cuncolim). Faleiro is now saddened and disgusted with the affairs of some of the hawks of the party who pushed for his ouster because they thought they could topple the government overnight and form an alternate one, but the toppling move has come a cropper. Now these MLAs are in the wilderness, with the party offering no sustenance and their leader no longer party president.
So it perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise that Nuvem’s Congress MLA Babashan D’Sa invited the Goa Forward president and TCP minister to be the Chief Guest at the finals of the Nuvem Panchayat Cup inter-village football tournament, organised by Parish Youth Nuvem, at Jesus Mary Joseph Church ground, last Sunday. Or for that matter the Congress MLA from St Andre Francis Silveira seeking Sardesai’s help to solve an issue concerning the construction of bungalows on a hill slope in Curca. The TCP minister directed his department to review permissions given to construct bungalows that could affect the 350-year-old ‘Our Lady of Rosary Church’ at Curca, Bambolim. And this is how a grateful Silveira reacted, “Vijai will protect Goa, Goenkar and Goenkarponn because the people of Goa trust him. He will protect all the communities of Goa and help them”. You could almost forget for a moment that this was a Congress and not a Goa Forward MLA speaking. And in another instance last week Sardesai was at a Vanmahotsav programme organised by the Mount Mary Higher Secondary School in Chinchinim, in the constituency of Congress MLA Felipe Neri Rodrigues, in the presence of the Parish priest Fr Antonio Costa. Here he recommended that an unutilised agriculture farm can be used to promote floriculture. For these MLAs, the end goal is one to see to it that they are able to deliver on development, jobs and people’s issues so that they can get back. Each of them is party agnostic. It doesn’t matter what ticket they get back on but they would all like to be in the House and preferably “in government”.
Sardesai is subtly allowing this independent spirit of MLAs to grow, since he would rather have these MLAs reaching a comfort zone with him rather than they wanting to go to the BJP, because he is looking at his own stability and future in a post 2019 or post 2022 scenario.
Meanwhile the legion of free floaters in the Congress is growing, the ruling coalition is not without some relationships that are passing through a phase of discomfort. Calangute MLA Michael Lobo, earlier a hopeful front runner for a senior cabinet position due to the role he played in getting this government together, has displayed impatience in the Assembly against his own government on some issues. Lobo, Deputy Speaker and NGPDA chairman, ruffled the ruling benches in the House when he said that BJP got so few seats in the elections because of the amendment to the Tenancy Act. This irked Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar who replied saying, “I don’t think so”. Lobo was also ticked off during the tea break by the CM for these remarks. Lobo had earlier demanded an FIR against the Sadhvi from MP who said on Goan soil that beef eaters should be hanged. The CM said in the House that there was no need for an FIR since there was no compliant. For Lobo, it’s important that in his constituency of Calangute, he doesn’t lose any ground among the minorities and sections like mundkars and taxi drivers all of whom see him as a local with a humble background who has achieved great electoral success. And then the simmering differences between Babu Azgaonkar the Tourism Minister from MGP and Nilesh Cabral BJP’s Curchorem MLA and Chairman of GTDC, which is within Azgaonkar’s department, bubbled to the fore. Azgaonkar said he would order an inquiry into the leasing of GTDC properties in the last five years and was challenged by Cabral to do so. Thereafter, speaking to Herald, Cabral, a Corporation Chairman, demanded that MLAs need to be given more than one corporation like ministers who hold more than two portfolios.
All these can be seen as subtle to direct ways in increasing and protecting the turf by individual MLAs.
While it must be said that the disarray of the Congress is at another level altogether, let us not discount the fact that the BJP core is tolerating but not obviously joyous at this kind of a “ruling” coalition and the forced undermining of their own leaders due to coalition compulsions. Those strains will be visible along the way.
And why should the MGP be left out? It is clear that post government formation, Babu Azgaonkar, who left the Congress a day after he welcomed Rahul Gandhi to Goa and participated in his rally, and contested on the MGP ticket against senior BJP leader Rajendra Arlekar, has the CM’s ears more than the official MGP supremo Sudin Dhavalikar. Meanwhile, Azgaonkar’s bête noire Arlekar, cools his political heels in wilderness, along with other members of the lonely, rejected and dejected club like ex-CM Laxmikant Parsekar and Siolim strongman Dayanand Mandrekar.
‘To each his own’, is the political mantra of the day, but the high priests who chant it the best are indeed the MLAs of the single largest party, the Indian National Congress.