HARDLY had the harsh words and sarcasm between Michael Lobo, the Deputy Speaker of the Goa Legislative Assembly, and Francis D’Souza, the Urban Development Minister, ended following the intervention of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has a venomous war of words erupted between Govind Gaude, the Art and Culture Minister and defenders of Ramkrishna Dhavlikar, the Public Works Department Minister. In the past Vijai Sardesai, the Agriculture Minister and Mauvin Godinho, the Panchayat Minister also criticized Dhavlikar in public. Their vicious exchange in public does not show governance in good light. It should be tackled on priority as it has the potential to damage the credibility of the government. With the Assembly session a few days away, the Chief Minister would have to immediately step in to bring the acrimonious exchanges to an end.
Gaude’s grievance against Dhavlikar is that he has been giving step-motherly treatment to his Priol constituency in respect of execution of public works. Gaude seems to have deduced from the alleged delay in the execution of public works in his constituency that Dhavlikar has become “inefficient, perhaps due to his advancing age.” That is not how usually a fellow minister speaks about a colleague in the normal discourse. Gaude had obviously crossed the boundaries of decency of discourse. He did not care though: he went to the extent of saying that corruption was rampant in the PWD and the works carried out by the department, particularly the roads, were shoddy, which get washed away with the advent on monsoon every year. The allegations made by Gaude should not be dismissed. He is a minister, after all. So, while the Chief Minister curbs exchange of hot words between him and Dhavlikar’s supporters, he should order an audit of the quality of works carried out by the PWD in the recent years. Dhavlikar has been PWD Minister for 18 years and has had enough time to address the issues related to public works. Having been a PWD contractor himself and aware of the system, he should have been able to identify ills affecting his department and taken corrective steps to address the public issues but appears to have lost his way in the middle.
The charges of corruption being deep-rooted in PWD have been making rounds for decades. Since the department has been considered a money spinner and much sought after by politicians, the onus is on Dhavlikar to prove that he has not used his position to settle personal scores with his cabinet colleague by neglecting the Priol constituency. Dhavlikar should seize the opportunity and come clean on the issue by proving the allegations were not true. It is strange to note that the Maharshtrawadi Gomantak Party workers came forward to challenge Gaude to prove his allegations and went to the extent of saying that if the charges are proved they would ask Dhavlikar to resign. Dhavlikar himself needs to come forward to reply to the charges levelled by Gaude, who must have turned desperate for some reason to make a scathing attack on him in public. On his part, Gaude needs to prove that his allegations are true.
Rather than letting the rancour and bitterness run riot, the two ministers Dhavlikar and Gaude should sit down to settle the Priol issues amicably. Perhaps due to regular cabinet meetings not taking place in the absence of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, where the ministers get an opportunity to discuss the issues pertaining to their constituencies and departments, Gaude did not get an opportunity to resolve the issues with the PWD Minister. He says he failed to get positive response from Dhavlikar to his notes. Since ministers swear to uphold justice and do public good, using their position to settle personal scores goes against the spirit of the allegiance to the Constitution and democratic principles. The partners in the ruling coalition would have to bear in mind that their diatribe against one another would send wrong signals to the public. Now that the Chief Minister is back they should take up the issues with him rather than going public. As the image of his government is at stake, the Chief Minister should crack the whip to enforce dignity and discipline in his cabinet. Of course, ministers too are MLAs and they have every right to ventilate the grievances of their constituencies. They have every right to point at corruption if they see it going on in their or another minister’s department. The Chief Minister should not ignore the seriousness of their charges and make an investigation for satisfying his own conscience.