ALTHOUGH both the BJP and MGP deny this, scepticism is growing whether the two will go into the 2017 Assembly elections as allies. The elections are two years away, but all parties have already begun preparing for it, the MGP looking like the most earnest of them. Many in the BJP are not happy with it as the MGP has been poaching on its disgruntled supporters. The political constituencies of the two parties quite often overlap, which adds to their strength if they are united and divides their votes if they are not. It was the need to avoid division of votes that the BJP aligned with the MGP for the first time in the 1994 Assembly elections.
One of the factors causing strain in the BJP-MGP alliance is the absence of Manohar Parrikar who joined as Defence Minister. MGP leader and PWD Minister Ramkrishna Dhavlikar declared he too had a desire to be chief minister, a position he would not have claimed had Parrikar continued to be chief minister. Dhavlikar appeared to have chosen an opportune time to lay his claim for the highest political chair in the state, taking advantage of the perception that the new Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar was not as strong a leader as Parrikar was. Ever since then the alliance between the two parties has been on a less than cordial path. The MGP leadership has added fuel to the fire by claiming that they were unsure whether the alliance would continue and whether they would go by the past agreement on seat sharing. Though the MGP leadership has officially downplayed the reports of its ministers working against the interests of the Parsekar government, demands are growing within the BJP for a tougher position against the partner in order to call their bluff. Some would even welcome a break with the MGP.
The recent decision of the PWD, with the consent of minister Ramkrishna Dhavlikar to impose entry tax for local commercial vehicles without the approval of the state cabinet and Chief Minister has only come as a shot in the arm of those in the BJP wanting ouster of the MGP from the government. For they consider this as an act of defiance and a deliberate game on the part of Dhavlikar to discredit the supreme authority of the Chief Minister. The decision is also being seen as a scam in making: the MGP leadership was seen as trying to use the opportunity to garner more funds through the imposition of entry fee so as to ensure continuation of works under their mandate. Perhaps the MGP leadership feels that the government has taken away most of the projects and funds from it and handed them to the GSIDC. This could well be an attempt by the MGP to project the BJP in a bad light so as to gain political ground for itself.
In recent years, the MGP has admitted into the party men and women who claimed to be workers and supporters of the BJP. Some of the areas where such poaching from the partner’s camp took place included St Cruz and Bicholim. It is a fact that there are a number of people within the BJP at various levels, including former MLAs, office bearers and workers, who have for their the reasons of lack of their own political advancement within the party under the present dispensation who are looking for opportunities to grow in political influence. The MGP could provide a growth opportunity to some of these elements.
There is no doubt that the Dhavlikar brothers have set their eyes much higher than they ever had for the 2017 elections. They are working hard toward a situation where the BJP is compelled to leave the maximum number of seats for them. Else they would try their luck alone. The dream is that if they could win a good number of seats they could set up negotiations with either the BJP or the Congress camp on condition that Ramkrishna Dhavlikar becomes the chief minister. Nobody can object to Dhavlikar dreaming. It is a democracy. And political pundits are predicting a hung Assembly in 2017. However, to conclude from that Dhavlikar has a very good chance of becoming CM is too far-fetched. The MGP base is too small, narrow and scattered to give the party a good number of seats. And in this era when voters look for personalities inspiring confidence as leaders, Dhavlikar is just not known for the qualities that fit the bill. There is nothing wrong in dreaming, but without any support from the ground realities it could turn out to be no more than day dreaming.