20 Mar 2019 05:39am IST
As the flames of Goa’s iconic son and BJP’s prized politician Manoharbhai Parrikar were glowing in the neighbourhood of the ‘Samadhi’ of Goa’s first beloved Chief Minister and patriarch of the MGP, fondly remembered as Bhausaheb Bandodkar and even before the embers could settle down, the BJP central leaders were stealthily locked up working out deals to cobble majority numbers for staking claim to form the government. In fact, the drama of hushed political games had commenced the minute Manohar Parrikar breathed his last and plunged the nation in a state of mourning. The general public sincerely sobbed, grieved and bowed in memory of their departed leader. What the politicians supposedly close to Manohar Parrikar shed could well be described as crocodile tears.
With the collapse of the Parrikar-led government, the choice of a new leader was inevitable. Though the Congress party met the Governor to stake the first claim to form the government on the ground of being the single largest party, they could not produce any evidence of majority support. It is understandable that other political groups would not risk extending open support to the Congress knowing of the partisanship and prejudice in favour of the BJP. The threats that the Governor has the discretion to dissolve the Assembly or keep it under suspended animation were handicaps for the Congress to garner support. It is also true that in such a game of thin numbers, the political party invited by the Governor will have an edge in negotiation for government formation.
Constitutionally speaking, the Congress had no case as the constitutional principle is that the Governor invites the leader of the political party or of a coalition with justifiable claims of majority support. In the absence of such claimants, the constitutional convention demands that the Governor calls the single largest party to explore the possibilities of forming the government as President’s rule is the last choice in case all other possibilities fail. However, as the Congress faced flak from all quarters for the delay immediately after the general elections, it was a political necessity to knock on the doors of the Governor. The BJP made an uncharacteristic attack on the Congress for playing politics of power when eyes were still wet on the sad demise of Parrikar. Actually, they themselves were immersed in political confabulations all the while, including when Parrikar was critically ill dishing out stories of “stable health”. The silence of the Governor defaced and defiled the exalted status of this constitutional office during this period. With the Governor unfurling the flag of unstinted loyalty to BJP, the traffic sign of ‘dare not negotiate’ with anyone else except the minority BJP was loud and clear.
Finally, the BJP government has survived post-Parrikar. It looks that the stalemate is broken but with heavy costs to the BJP and supernatural profits to coalition partners. This was expected as BJP somehow wants to be in power in view of the parliamentary polls and by-elections to four State constituencies. The strength of BJP is 12, but effectively 10 as one would decorate as Speaker and another has not made public appearance for over eight months. BJP might have also fixed the nail for the Shiroda constituency to checkmate the belligerent brother of the presently elevated Deputy Chief Minister Sudin Dhavalikar. Though we have the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers in place, it will not be respected as people’s government. In the coastal belt and hinterlands of Goa, this would be a ‘government of men’ who were elected by Goans ‘once upon a time’. It was a different matter earlier due to the personal power and charisma of Manohar Parrikar. Two deputy Chief Ministers for tiny Goa sounds nauseating.
Actually, there is nothing common that binds the current government except that all dread fresh elections. Even the Governor would not have dissolved the Assembly as the BJP is sure to lose, gauging the current mood of the electorate. At the most, the Governor would have kept the Assembly in suspended animation waiting for the by-election outcome. The Independents and those who comprise the coalition groups are not sure to win. This indicates that the Congress has an advantage to emerge with majority numbers if they maintain their tempo and value patience.
It is actually good for the Congress party that it is not in power with hotch-potch arrangements like the current one. If they get into the shoes of power under present circumstances, including a hostile Central government, the BJP would gather the lost moss and image. The Parrikar government was losing popularity due to the mining crisis, CRZ dilution, TCP amendments, breakdown of administration and the virtual ‘dance’ of ministers as the State cabinet was effectively rudderless. The office of the Chief Minister was almost leased to tenants in bureaucracy and the non-elected BJP coterie. This is coupled with the anti-democratic policies of the BJP at the national level. With the new BJP-led government, perceptions about this cadre-based party making tall claims of political ethics are likely to dwindle further. The elections to the two parliamentary seats and the four seats to the State assembly would test the hypothesis.
In the meanwhile, the curtains of the political drama are still not pulled down. We need to watch what unfolds during the election of the Speaker and the vote of confidence. With the Governor on board and the risks associated with fresh elections it does not seem an uphill task.
(The writer is an educationist and political commentator)