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Parrikar’s absence casts a shadow after a year in power

Parrikar’s absence casts a shadow after a year in power

13 Mar 2018 No comment 2 hits

Panaji: Less than two weeks since he returned from the Mumbai hospital for the budget session, chief minister Manohar Parrikar was flown out to the US for treatment.
Though he never served a full term as the chief minister (this is his third time in the seat), there’s no denying the BJP might have been only on the fringes of politics in Goa had it not been for Parrikar. Whether in power or in the opposition, ideology, immense ambition, political astuteness and ruthlessness have driven the man. They came into play at the very beginning of this term in the selective targeting of those in the opposition—Digambar Kamat, Chandrakant ‘Babu’ Kavlekar—and the open compromise with others like Vijai Sardesai and Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate. That has been the saffron party’s big advantage in Goa: A single leader surrounded by marionettes ready to fall in line—they did so even when the allies took the biggest slice of Cabinet posts—as opposed to the Congress and its bulge of inflated leaders with personal agendas.

But what was until now an advantage has turned into a handicap in the absence of a second line of command that would qualify—in the BJP book, ties to the RSS would come on top—to take over in Parrikar’s absence.

The three-member cabinet advisory committee was probably the best option available given the urgency of the situation and the challenges of holding together an ideologically disparate coalition to stay in power. The Congress has questioned its constitutional validity, and the chief minister’s prolonged absence is likely to raise suspicions over who is actually calling the shots in Goa: The executive or the bureaucracy.

What stands out in this ad hoc arrangement is Parrikar’s decision to not nominate an acting chief minister to fill in for his absence. This displays his lack of confidence and trust in any single member of his lead team—Ramkrishna ‘Sudin’ Dhavalikar, Sardesai or Francis D’Souza—as much as it accentuates the shakiness of the opportunistic coalition patched together despite the BJP’s clear defeat in last year’s election. The three-man steering boat appears to have sprung a leak already as Curchorem MLA Nilesh Cabral’s outburst displays.

The assertions by the MGP and Goa Forward that their support would continue only so long as Parrikar is chief minister only amplify the political uncertainties ahead for this government.

Parrikar’s absence coincides with the culmination of a year in power, and the report card is hardly flattering. Confusion rather than achievement dominates the government’s score. The defining image is the Centre’s rebuff to our grovelling elected representatives who wanted a Supreme Court ruling overturned to mollify their miner friends at the expense of ordinary citizens.

Across Goa, panchayats are in an uproar over the inclusion of their villages in the PDAs, the bodies that have become synonymous with payoffs and kickbacks. Mounting public anger has compelled Congress MLAs Francis Silveira and Tony Fernandes to resign from the Greater Panaji Planning and Development Authority (GPPDA) constituted purely to accommodate Monserrate after his backing to Parrikar’s election in Panaji.

Further north, the skulking Michael Lobo, who wants to expand his area of control under the NGPDA, is likely to face a similar response in Calangute, Candolim and Parra. These issues, a consequence of the politics of compromise and appeasement, were festering long before the chief minister took ill and continue to haunt the government as it completes a year in office.

(The writer is a senior journalist. Views expressed are personal)

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