A day before Manohar Parrikar resigned as Chief Minister, and when the search for his successor was still on, three MLAs met in the studios of HCN to debate Parrikar’s elevation to the Union Cabinet and what his departure will mean to Goan politics. Present were Fatorda Independent MLA Vijai Sardesai, often called the one-man opposition who has engaged in various verbal battles with Parrikar on the floor of the House, Congress MLA from Dabolim, Mauvin Godinho, who sometimes appears to lean towards the BJP and who has toned down his opposition, and MGP MLA from Ponda Lavoo Mamledar, whose party is an ally of the BJP, but who has raised several issues in the House.
Herald: Vijay to start with you... what is your calculation now?
Vijai Sardesai: It is not my calculation but that of the superpower behind the politics in the BJP. This is the final ‘U’ turn. The reason why they are taking Parrikar away at this juncture only Amit Shah (BJP National president) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi can tell. Probably even Parrikar would not know the reason, so naturally I cannot have an answer to this. But in Goa, BJP without Parrikar is quite unreal and it marks a paradigm shift in Goan politics. Parrikar was active for the last 20 to 30 years and is a leader who has proved that he is a good administrator, and has got people elected. To take him out looks like a complicated calculation.
Herald: Everyone is congratulating Parrikar why are you talking like this?
Vijai: I am not criticizing his appointment. It is a matter of pride for a Goan like me that he is being considered for the post of Defence Minister. He is being considered for one of the top three positions in the country. I wish to congratulate him on that. The State’s loss has been the country’s gain. I think the country is bigger than the State.
Herald: Vijai feels it is a loss for the State. Mauvin what was your reaction when you first heard of this decision?
Mauvin Godinho: As a true Goan, there are mixed feelings. A Goan will be the Defence minister for the first time and for the first time a Goan is going to be a Union Cabinet Minister. It is a matter of great pride... We now have two Goans in the Union government.
Herald: Something your Congress did not do.
Mauvin: Yes. There was no Goan in the UPA government. I am saying it is a bitter-sweet feeling. His shadow and wisdom will continue to guide Goa. Whoever becomes CM will be under Parrikar’s shadow. His wisdom and advice will be available to the new CM.
Herald: You should be happy, some people have mixed feelings but MGP should be happy.
Lavoo Mamledar: He is going to be holding a very high position, but it is Goa’s loss. There has not been a more efficient CM in the last 15 years.
Herald: Vijai, we did not expect you to say it is a loss.
Vijai: I am saying it is a loss for the state BJP. Goa BJP without Parrikar is hard to contemplate. This is an indicator of the unpredictability of the National parties. A lot of the altar boys were selected because of the CM. I am thinking of all the people who voted for these MLAs looking at Parrikar. Some 37% of the minorities voted for him. Now midterm you have taken him out. This is a betrayal. This unpredictability is crazy even Parrikar did not foresee this. The State was just achieving some stability, we are experiencing an economic crisis and you require some intelligence. Who are you going to choose? You are choosing the shadow but you are choosing the best amongst the worst because you are letting the best go to Delhi. It is basically the choice of the lesser evil. This shows that the BJP has a paucity of leadership in the State and at the national level.
Herald: I see love for Parrikar in your eyes for the first time.
Vijai: I have had a long association with Parrikar. As an administrator, I have always praised him in the House. I am not a member of his party and he has not got me elected, I am the person who beat the only sitting BJP MLA.
Mauvin: Politics is dynamic, equations keep on changing and in this I am happy Vijai has said nice things about Parrikar. This is also dynamism of politics. We have to see in the emerging situation what will be the best scenario that will emerge in the interest of Goa. The State has certain problems, Parrikar had promised special status, more land for parking from the Navy, to see that Dabolim airport remains permanently. There are Army barracks in Panjim that have to be shifted. You have to take civilian interests into account and give them (Army) land elsewhere. One has to capitalize on the current situation. Today Parrikar will be the Defence Minister of the country taking care of the security of 125 crore Indians in a very volatile situation. Where the modernization of the armed forces is concerned, you need an honest person for the acquisition of arms where billions of dollars will be spent. So the country comes above everything else. Just as someone does not forget his mother I hope Parrikar does not forget his motherland. If he does good for the country, automatically good will come to Goa.
Herald: What Vijai is saying is right – that people of Canacona have not voted to make Parrikar the Defence Minister of the country.
Mauvin: The same people voted for Modi. If you look at the statistics, the voting pattern even in minority areas at the last elections, it was a vote for Modi, a vote for performance, good governance, and it is a vote for Parrikar along with his party. He cannot be isolated and removed from his party.
Herald: You are not countering Vijai’s claim that XYZ person from Cancona, Pernem elected him for the State. He has been given that responsibility and suddenly leaves it and goes elsewhere. Then you have an excuse that Nation is more important. Do you support this?
Mauvin: He has not gone out of the system. He is in a position where he can contribute much more to Goa. For example, if he gets special status for Goa, if he moves the defence forces from certain areas and gets that land for civilian purposes, we will be proud. If he gets a special economic package due to the stopping of mining and we can build good world class infrastructure, including the highway from north to south, it augurs very well for Goa.
Lavoo: Vijai said best amongst the worst, I will not agree with that unless you give an opportunity to others to work. They could be as good as Parrikar.
Mauvin: What he says is correct. Why are you pre judging persons? Give somebody a chance for at least six months then you will know their worth.
Vijai: This Defence Minister used to always come to the defence of these people. They could not handle it and he would help them. When the cat is away the mice will play that is but natural. Now corruption will rise.
Mauvin: Let us call him a great fatherly figure, somebody else will assume the role of the father.
Herald: Let us be very clear. He is saying that Parrikar used to defend the ministers, now will these ministers be able to defend their portfolios?
Mauvin: No one can deny the fact that Parrikar was like a cover for everyone. He was the centralized figure that was controlling and holding the fort so that people used to call him a dictator and Vijai used to say we don’t need a dictator. He was so because he was capable, he had that much delivery and understanding. Now with the new leadership it may be a collective effort. It may have a few people looking after what one person looked after. That may be the only difference, it does not mean it is going to result is something that is going to turn really bad.
Herald: Lavoo, tell me what this is all about. Do you feel cheated?
Lavoo: We do not feel cheated. We are in alliance with the BJP. His move is the best decision.
Vijai: He defends BJP. I agree politics is dynamic but I think every self-respecting Goan should think of a party made in Goa. Modi talks about Make in India we have to talk about Make in Goa.
Mauvin: Look at the UPA, look at what happened before that, what happened in various states. People have seen all this and after that gave a decisive mandate to the NDA.
Vijai: Yes, of 30% vote share.
Herald: Isn’t this an opportunity for the opposition to do something?
Vijai: Of course, if they don’t do anything they have to join Mauvin.
Herald: Do you think this is an opportunity for the non-BJP forces?
Mauvin: As far as I am concerned all issues of Goa and Goans transcend any party
Herald: Are you joining the BJP in the immediate future?
Mauvin: Why should I announce in a studio what I am thinking? You will know at the right time. I believe in taking decisions for the good of Goa and Goans and the good of my constituency.
Lavoo: I agree with Vijai. It is time for regional parties.
Herald: Is it an opportunity for opposition to attack BJP?
Vijai: He is not the opposition
Lavoo: You think there is any opposition in this Assembly now?
Mauvin: They will find it difficult to box the shadow of Parrikar.
Lavoo: There is no opposition at all.
Herald: There appears to be a difference in opinion amongst all the panellists. Thank you.