MGP Needs New Avatar

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MGP must attract younger generations to grow big

THE target set by reelected Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) president Pandurang Dhavlikar of winning a minimum 15 seats for the party in the 2022 assembly elections may sound a bit unrealistic considering the shrinking area of influence of the party. The party that ruled Goa for more than a decade since the first election in liberated Goa in 1963 has been down the incline since the early 1980s. However, people would watch with interest how the party president makes the party formidable again in its weakening strongholds in Pernem, Bicholim, Sanguem, Dharbandora and Ponda as he has promised to do. The first test of the inspirational and mobilizational skills of the MGP president who has led the party for a decade will be the upcoming polls to the municipal councils.

If the MGP has to build a strong organisation and identity of its own it has to differentiate itself from the BJP. Over the past few decades the voters of the MGP have shifted their loyalty to the BJP. Although it might be pointless for the MGP to regret the past, it can certainly learn from it. When the MGP started declining, it made an alliance with the BJP thinking it was its “ideological friend”. However, experience has shown that the BJP grew at the cost of the MGP. Election after election has demonstrated that the MGP enjoys a very limited influence. Not much fault can be found with the cult leadership, for most of the parties have shown a tendency of becoming personality or family oriented. However, the harsh reality is that though the Dhavlikar brothers have the following to win or be a tough opponent in elections in a couple of constituencies, the party itself does not have that kind of following in other constituencies. How will the MGP president expand the influence of the party?

Certainly it cannot be on the basis of old loyalties alone. The party cannot go on encashing the legacy of Dayanand Bandodkar, the founder and ideologue of the party and the first chief minister of Goa. It has to enrich it. Pandurang Dhavlikar cannot hope to resurrect the party without reinventing and refashioning its ideas, ideals and political strategies according to the times. The MGP was known to draw unquestioning support from the generations that worked with and supported Bandodkar, but those generations are gone and the party has to make itself attractive to the younger generations who today make a sizable section of the state electorate. The party does not have a dynamic youth leader who could help the party built a new voter base. Besides, some of its disgruntled leaders have caused damage to its image by throwing tantrums every now and then. The Dhavlikar brothers will have to take innovative steps to change the stereotype of the MGP as a family holding. They will have to be liberal and broad-minded in recruiting and encouraging younger leaders in the party.

The MGP has shrunk but not vanished. It has not disintegrated to become a non-entity. The party has never drawn a blank in any election. Even though highly reduced it has remained relevant to Goan politics despite the rise of the BJP. The way forward may not be easy but its leadership would have to devise new policies and programmes. The politics in Goa is set to remain a fragmented scene, with even the major parties, the BJP and the Congress not succeeding in getting a majority on their own. The verdict in the elections of 2017 was a fractured one. The BJP took advantage of the fissures in the Congress party that had emerged as the single largest party and grabbed power. The MGP had allied with the BJP, but after the BJP got sufficient numbers with the switch of 10 Congress MLAs, it dropped Ramkrishna Dhavlikar from the ministry, virtually ending ties with the MGP. Since then the MGP has been on its own. Factionalism within the party did its own damage during the isolation period. Now that the reelected party president has announced that he was going to take steps to rejuvenate, strengthen and expand the party, it would be interesting to watch whether that is rhetoric or real change.