- Goa’s bjp: the hand that rocked their cradle, ruined their world
Goa’s bjp: the hand that rocked their cradle, ruined their world
Something is wrong somewhere. Even as Goa government is putting up a brave front of unity in diversity, it is its major constituent BJP, whose own experiment of uniting in diversity that is falling apart as dissensions, polarisation and cluelessness grips Goa’s second largest party. Team Herald investigates the rot within and discovers that BJP’s fortunes are nothing but Parrikar’s own fortunes. BJP is Parrikar and not vice versa.
This is a bit of an urban legend in Mapusa. As a growing child, Manohar Parrikar would often play cricket at this small open field near Sateri Temple in Mapusa. He used to come over there with his books to play. If someone got to bat before him, then only he would allow them to do so. But after him, nobody got to bat. Even if he got out he would argue that how he was not out. If the rest of the boys didn’t relent, he would pick up his books and walk away. Only he could get to bat and nobody else would. It was always only about him. This trait, this nature still haunts Goa and even his own party BJP.
For an average Goenkar, BJP is a mystery political party. BJP’s RSS trained ranks and cadres are in stark contrast to the succegad Goans. While Goans knew political outfits like Indian National Congress. MGP, UGDP, MGP that where packed with formidable and wannabe leaders who would battle it out and speak their minds out democratically, BJP in Goa was always known as one voice, one face party. So when Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar was hit by a mystery (medically known but officially unaccepted) disease, the focus would shift to the next generation of leaders who could either fill a stop gap arrangement or even eventually succeed him. Yet, it didn’t happen. Do the Party that prides in its principles and democratic values not have a succession plan? When Herald began to dig deeper, what emerged is a party at the brink of an internal implosion.
Nobody in BJP wants to talk about it. Is it the fear of BJP National President Amit Shah’s tough-talking or is it ailing Parrikar’s bedridden cunning that BJP in the state is running about a headless chicken? But then Goa is too small a place where every wall is shared by more than one home and the voices indoors are heard outside.
BJP – Comeback turns Downslide
Party insiders agree that the slide started soon after 2012 when Parrikar was re-elected with a decent mandate to run the State. The coterie around Parrikar grew and so did his distance from the party workers. Despite public posturing by its leaders, Parrikar’s personal stock fell with the workers. It was visible in 2017 elections where despite his being Defence Minister, the number of seats in Goa Assembly fell from 21 to 13. “If his popularity was all that big, we would have got 26 seats but that didn’t happen. If we had not taken these few people from Congress, we would have been decimated even further” rues a senior Party leader.
Since 2017, the Party has been dormant and as the same leader reveals “There is nothing called Party left. A 2-3 member caucus has taken over the control of the party. They are not interested in the future of the party. They are looking at what they are going to gain from the party”. That CM Parrikar always had a coterie (caucus) around him is a well-known fact but the fact that this Parrikar serving coterie is managing the party is news. Enquiries reveal that the coterie serves Parrikar and addresses his (as well as their own) and not Party’s interest. They have their immunity from any Party leaders and workers due to Parrikar’s clout at the Centre. This unprecedented situation came about and building up since 2012 when a certain section of RSS which was in touch and in close coordination with Parrikar came back to RSS, unhappy with the way the Party was being run. The established practice in BJP/RSS is that the goings-on in BJP shall be communicated directly to higher hierarchies through state unit of RSS. Parrikar successfully changed that too.
Another gamble that failed is the rampant induction of Catholic leaders and supporters into the party by Parrikar that has diluted the party’s RSS style stern discipline. In the beginning, BJP cadres came in through the RSS route and hence there was discipline. But now it is not so. People just came in and they were never trained and inducted as per the established norms that were used by BJP in the beginning. The party never familiarised these new Christian MLAs with principles of the BJP. Only Francis D’Souza who came into the party convinced by the principles and ideologies of the party and stayed quiet and quite loyal for the past 20 years confirm to BJP’s original standards of discipline. The new crop of minority MLAs come from mix backgrounds where loyalties to BJP are shown more by a public display of imagery such as wearing saffron turbans and dhotis and sporting vermillion spots (tikas) rather than adhering to the selflessness of RSS ideology. BJP never quite internalised these Catholic leaders and their supporters. Today all these 7 MLAs are beyond the control of the party. Parrikar was just ‘managing’ them. None could identify and internalise the BJP’s principles and inspiration to stick together. They join to BJP only for their greed. There is no missionary zeal in their adherence to core BJP values.
BJP - RSS ruled turns RSS’ ruler
Post-2012, Sanjay Walavalkar became the Boss of the State’s RSS unit. Walavalkar was a part of the triumvirate of Walavalkar, Parrikar and Francis D’Souza who were together in so many times. Party insiders reveal that Walavalkar was the North Goa head of RSS and facing financial problems. It was the till then ever helpful Parrikar who settled him in an automobile spare parts business. Walawalkar still maintains that Parrikar is a partner in the business. Unconfirmed reports, however, state that Walavalkar was a paid employee with perks of a director or a partner. This investment came in handy when former RSS boss Subhash Velingkar recused himself from the responsibility. Even though there were more competent people in RSS, Parrikar with his newfound clout at the Centre rode over his traditional RSS colleagues and managed to put Walavalkar into Velingkar’s position. Sanjay Walavalkar thus accidentally became the RSS State Secretary.
A former colleague from RSS days Velingkar says, “I saw Manohar’s diversion from core issues and practices. I would tell him this isn’t right for the Party, Your behaviour should improve. I was the only one who could talk straight like that because I had no interest in my own too. Then a situation developed when a couple of months before elections, without taking the Team into confidence, without telling the Team, Manohar started doing some political gimmicks which were not in the interest of the party”. Velingkar had released Parrikar and 249 others from RSS to set up the roots of BJP in Goa. Of those almost 230 have been sidelined and since withdrawn themselves from public discourse while the rest of them are working as social workers away from the limelight and humdrum of politics.
RSS has always faced a paucity of dynamic and go-getter type political leadership in the Konkan. RSS cadres agree that Goa has only been seen in terms of 2 MPs and 15 lakh population and never took Goa seriously. In the post-2012, Parrikar era a comfortable reporting structure to the top RSS/BJP leadership emerged which was quite unlike the blunt, realistic reporting structure that RSS is known for. The report from Goa came from the wrong people. “What happened thereafter is 95% of us quit RSS and are still out there. We are increasing in numbers. We are now converted into a Bharat Mata Ki Jai organisation”, says Velingkar, easily the most known face of RSS in the state responsible for giving BJP its first line of leadership in Goa. Parrikar might have won but BJP lost as it lost the majority (95%) of the 1 lakh odd members of RSS and related outfits.
So diluted has the state’s RSS become that most of its office bearers have been from that group that was seen as the more uncharismatic and inactive part of RSS. Even the Bharatiya Yuva Morcha, the youth organisation has someone brought in a leader ‘just like that’. RSS does not have a culture of sponsorship. If there is someone who is poor and has to be sent for training then he is asked to work somewhere to raise at least money enough to fund his own uniform. “We never used to sponsor”, says another RSS oldtimer, “Now Manohar sponsors 500 uniforms and enrols people in RSS. There is nothing to do with the principle”. Gone is the democratic norms where RSS took decisions democratically using cooperation and consultation. The way Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh leader Puti Gaonkar of BMS was removed was another case in an example where Parrikar over-reached RSS to change their own leader. The control was now reversed.
BJP – King wipes out his Generals
Earlier last month when the faux pas called Core Meeting Meeting was first held in Mumbai with a prospect of a final meeting in Delhi with BJP National President Amit Shah something was quite amiss. The senior most leaders of the Party who brought the Party up along with Parrikar where conspicuous by their absence. Accident or Masterstroke? It was actually a coup of sorts to further undermine Shripad Naik and other seniors who could possibly undermine Parrikar’s authority. The Core committee that went to Mumbai were minus former CM Laxmikant Parsekar, Dayanand Mandrekar, Rajendra Arlekar and Damu Naik. None were informed. Instead, the new clique of Narendra Sawaikar, Datta Kholkar, Sadanand Tanavade and party President Vinay Tendulkar were called. Everybody went to Mumbai and were sent back by Parrikar, making Shripad look like someone who was greedy for power. The meeting in Mumbai was to be for an alternative leadership but people who mattered were not taken and instead used as a Parrikar coup to further eliminate any challenge to his leadership.
Parrikar did not allow a second cadre to happen. The present times where enough kite flying happens on who could be the BJP’s CM post, what would be realistic to understand is that Parrikar actually cut down the second line of leadership to size from developing. The argument against Union AYUSH Minister Shipad Naik who was denied an Assembly ticket by Parrikar led screening committee in 2012 is that he is mild, isn’t a lobbyist and does not have that nuisance value. Despite terrific PR skills and an overwhelming backing by BJP/RSS cadres, his goodness is seen as his handicap and he isn’t seen as assertive but then Parrikar wouldn’t give him a chance is another story. Even when Laxmikant Parsekar was made CM and took some tough decisions, he was made to reverse the same by Parrikar. Parrikar even started taking meetings with Secretaries and Under Secretaries when Parsekar was CM severely undermining him. A doting media played ball and painted Parsekar’s reign as weak. BJP was Parrikar.
Though party crossovers between RSS and BJP refuse to accept this formally former RSS Chief Velingkar whose Goa Suraksha Manch also fielded candidates alongside former colleagues in BJP blows the whistle that Parrikar did play a distinct role in the defeat of his own second cadre leadership. “Manohar managed it differently. He had a tie-up with Vijai Sardesai even before elections whose two candidates were backed by certain BJP people under instructions from Manohar to defeat Mandrekar and Parulekar”, reveals Velingkar. Damu Naik who had the dynamism and political acumen to challenge Parrikar as a leader was cut down to size earlier. “He finished all Bhandari leaders because their Samaj shall always stand behind Shripad,” added Velingkar. The fact that Parrikar has files on wrongdoings of his BJP colleagues gives him virtual immunity and control over them.
Even within the Cabinet, it has always been about Parrikar. Former Cabinet colleagues note that he would simply state that “this is the way he felt and that it should be done”. It is his way or the highway. The clout came from the fact that the money would come only to him. Dependability of his Cabinet colleagues on him cost them their own independence and self-worth. Except of course for MGP’s Sudin Dhavlikar who showed his own acumen for raising money and came dangerously close to replacing Parrikar. So, BJP’s Moral of the Story is a simple fall in line with the CM or else be left out. He has a system across his party, the RSS and even his Cabinet to ensure that nobody but he and his coterie rule Goa.
BJP – in the CM and the Party’s Name
So who is the caucus or coterie that is talked about in hushed tones? The caucus consists of BJP Goa Vice President Datta Kholkar, South Goa MP Narendra Sawaiker and General Secretary Sadanand Tanawde, Tanawde, however, is now receding from the scene as the rest of the caucus have gained ground. Party workers are unhappy especially the way the two caucus members wrongly reported to party High Command to give ministership to two South Goa MLAs. “They were given to the South to facilitate Narendra Sawaikar’s reelection as he is sure to lose the elections there”, reveals a party insider. For the Parrikar backed caucus whatever happens in the North is not of much concern as the same is the constituency of Sripad Naik and not their concern. The insider also adds the fact that “probably Parrikar must not have been in the position to apply his mind on this issue so he was forced to take this decision by these people”.
Then there is an extended caucus that insiders allege consists of an Attorney General and a dentist Dr Sadekar. “Those who are sycophants and are available to him (Parrikar) at his beck and call are his favourite. Only the full time and anytime available are his friends, philosophers and guide”, reveals another Party senior. Somewhere Parrikar’s IIT sheen may have been just for the gallery and underneath, just another fallible human with megalomaniac tendencies.
“Post Parrikar there will not be even sympathy left. He has lost it not just for himself but also for his party. If elections happen BJP won’t get more than 5 seats on its own” warns Velingkar. Interestingly, one of the major concerns for the BJP, at a time when both Parliamentary Elections are around the corner and the possibility of a mid-term poll cannot be ruled out is whether which way will the Christian minority vote. After all, Parrikar had as early as 2012 claimed that Christians will go with him. The Truth as per the BJP / RSS is that it never happened’. In 2012 when Parrikar was claiming that Christians will go with him, VHP’s all India Vice President Ashok Chowgules put together some researchers and scholars and analysed the voting pattern. What BJP found out was that only in those constituencies where BJP was trying to pass off Catholic candidates suggested by the Church as its own, did voting for BJP increase just by 2%. These candidates were neither identified nor suggested by the party but forced by Parrikar in consultation with Archbishop. Hindus did not vote for BJP in those constituencies and neither was this a general Catholic voting rather voting by instruction. Parrikar’s pursuit to create new domains of influence has actually taken the party to a situation where it is confused, clueless and hence misguided. The party is thus hurtling into an unknown dimension of no return.
The Lotus did blossom in the muck of Goan politics but may just shrivel up to become fertiliser for other polities.