Sunday , 24 March 2019

A Dogfight Over Bones Of Power

All does not appear to be well within the ruling state coalition, particularly between the two junior partners, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Goa Forward Party (GFP).There seems to be a lot of public display of heart burning by the junior partners, and the major partner, the BJP, could not have remained aloof without letting their battle of words worsen. The MGP, which is now the shell of a party that ruled Goa for 17 consecutive years since Goa’s Liberation, has complained that it was being discriminated, while the GFP was being given preferential treatment by the BJP. One of the grievances aired by the MGP is that while both the parties have three legislators each in the Assembly, all three of the GFP were made ministers, but only two of the MGP got cabinet berths. The party claims that the third legislator of the MGP, who has been made the chairman of the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation (GSIDC), is just a figurehead and enjoys no powers whatsoever. The internal tussle between the two junior partners is aggravating. In the past their attacks on each other were hit and run kind. For the first time their attacks have become persistent, with their leaders trying to score points over one other and using disrespectful words against each other.

The MGP’s main target is actually the major partner, the BJP: so they have expressed “unhappiness” over the performance of the government and said they would wait and watch policy for the next six to eight months before taking a call on their “future course of action.” The party leaders have not threatened to exercise the option of pulling out of the coalition but have conveyed to the BJP that they are not satisfied and want more from it. Party president Pandurang Dhavlikar has put forth a condition: the MGP be allotted one of the two parliamentary seats in elections to the Lok Sabha in 2019. While senior MGP leaders claim that they have made their demands known to the major partner, BJP leaders deny having received any charter of demands from them. The BJP leaders in the government and organization would not like the coalition partners to go on publicly airing their grievances. The MGP needs to solve its problems with the BJP by holding negotiations with Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and BJP state and national leaders as long as it wants to continue to remain in the government. That the party wants to remain in the government is very clear from the game the Dhavlikar brothers are playing. While Deepak Dhavlikar as party president publicly derides the government performance and the GFP, the other brother, Ramkrishna Dhavlikar, the PWD and Transport Minister keeps his mouth shut. As long as the brother is mouthing the dirty words, Ramkrishna can play sugary.

The fight between leaders of MGP and GFP is unsavoury and would only add to the problems of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. It could lower the image of his government. It would be better the issues are  settled either way – that is, either the MGP grievance of less favoured treatment is met in areas where it is possible for the BJP to do or be rejected if the BJP thinks they are impractical. It is clear that the MGP would not walk out of the alliance in the near future. Ramkrishna Dhavlikar’s track record is that he has nurtured his constituency and got elected successively and joined as minister regardless of which party formed the government; it can be easily deduced from his past behaviour that he would walk out of the alliance only when there is a clear prospect of another coalition forming a government, which is something that is not going to happen at least till 2022. The Congress has a good number in the Assembly, but it is a divided house itself to launch on a reckless project of toppling the government midterm betting on the “rebellion” of the Dhavlikar brothers. The Dhavlikar brothers are no rebels but only hardboiled opportunists trying to write new terms in their coalition contract with the BJP. If the MGP was unhappy about GFP getting three ministers and they getting only two they should have told the BJP they are not joining the coalition unless all the three are made ministers. They accepted whatever was given to them then and are now throwing tantrums to get more. The parties of the ruling coalition had come together after the March 2017 elections on the basis of a common minimum programme. They should focus on delivering the programme and not on a dogfight over bones of power.

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