Defections Are For Power Not Development

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In a truncated assembly of 28 BJP would still have a full majority of 15 without counting one independent MLA who is a cabinet minister and the maverick NCP MLA

Nandkumar M Kamat

Defections are here to stay and would continue even after the next legislative assembly elections. Every Chief Minister and ruling party president knows that defections in Goa take place only for power and not in the name of development of any assembly constituency. Those who resign their seats like ex Congress (INC) MLAs Dayanand Sopate and Subhash Shirodkar cannot be called as defectors because they had resigned their seats and honestly sought fresh mandate and got it from the same voters.

Rest of the 12 MLAs, two from MGP and ten from Congress (INC) now with the BJP who had no confidence of resigning and getting re-elected irrespective of legal and technical jargon used to defend their actions would always be called as opportunist defectors because they have directly betrayed the trust of the people who had voted them on a different party symbol, for a different manifesto and a different political ideology. All these 12 defectors had allegedly run out of their patience and stamina in the opposition and were clearly craving for power. Sensing their quest and craving for power the BJP which had already sent feelers to them after resounding victory of NDA in May 2019 had suitably rewarded them.

But after all BJP is  a disciplined cadre based semi-autonomous political organ of RSS and these opportunistic defectors would never be fit in the ideological matrix of radical “Hindutva” or “cultural nationalism”. Some of them would again become impatient and wait for an opportunity to betray their present mentors as elections approach. However, the equation to be on the right side of the power is heavily tilted in the favour of BJP till NDA government rules. Under no circumstances the advantage which the state BJP enjoys to poke, coax, plead, tame, rule, bargain, negotiate for ensuring stability of government till May 2024 would diminish.

For Chanakyas in BJP- “the ends justify the means”. The key to the next government formation in Goa post the next assembly election and ensuring its stability also lies in the hands of the BJP high command in New Delhi. They have tried more challenging successful permutations and combinations in north eastern states, north India and in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. If certain defectors get the feeling in 2022 that they have been “used and discarded” then it would be a fitting lesson for them.

The state BJP would have nothing to lose even if all the 12 defectors get disqualified. In a truncated assembly of 28 BJP would still have a full majority of 15 without counting one independent MLA who is a cabinet minister and the maverick NCP MLA. Did Goa BJP do something in 2019 which was not happening since August 1970 when the then CM Bandodkar of MGP had to take support of five United Goans Party MLAs to stay in power?

The culture of split in major political parties, their legislature wings, the cross-party defections and taking support from political opponents was actually founded from 1970. But the political parties in Goa forgot to celebrate the golden jubilee of this tradition last year probably due to the pandemic.

We need to compliment journalist and political scientist Suhas Belekar for compiling a chronological sequence of the elections for legislative assembly and the Parliament since 1963. This Marathi reference book published in January 2016 compliments the monograph on post liberation Goa written lucidly by journalist late Waman Radhakrishna. Both these important references educate us on the history and culture of splits in political parties, their mergers, defections, defectors, engineered by polls, weird conspiracies to countermand elections and the complexity of government and cabinet formation in post liberation Goa.

The central point of the history of all the defections is “ensuring a stable government”- the real compulsion of every Chief Minister and ruling political party with the largest number of seats. The compulsion of every defecting MLA is to assess the political stamina for a five-year term and be on the right side of the power equation and trade support in exchange for some power- preferably a cabinet position or the chairmanship of a government corporation and more.

From Belekar’s compilation we see a trail of splits in political parties, mergers, defections, rejoining- a pathetic chronicle of Goa’s politicians always in search of power. The United Goans split twice, the MGP, INC  several times. What were the actual compulsions for the defectors to form UG-F, NMGP, BMGP, Goa Congress, Goa Rajiv Congress, Goan Peoples’ Party? The culture of defections rampant after elections on 22 November 1989 to the first 40 members’ assembly of the state has continued till July 2019- offering us a clear picture of the real intentions of various defectors during this 30-year period. The Chief Ministers during this period had sleepless nights worried only about retaining the majority and ensuring numerical political stability.

So if opposition MLAs run out of patience and think of defection, then it becomes very tempting for any chief minister because there is no such thing in a small 40 member assembly called a “solid majority”. We had seen such “solid numerical majority” under BJP from 2012 to 2017 but that did not result in a performing government without internal squabbles and petty bickering. For MGP the penultimate part of this period had proved very painful. But it got tempted again when the opportunity came to join BJP with support from unlikely supporters.

People couldn’t believe what they saw in March 2017. It was the pinnacle of political opportunism in blind quest for power. Naturally, the stamina of 12 MLAs to perform as effective legislators ran out after the resounding victory of BJP led NDA in May 2019 and that’s when the foundation for mass defections was probably laid.

The calculation of 12 defectors after May 2019 Loksabha polls was simple- who would sit in the opposition till 2022 if a strong BJP government rules till 2024 at the centre? It was an absolutely realistic assessment.

The UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi could very well understand the impatience of Quepem MLA whom she had trusted so much, when he walked over with other nine Congress (INC) MLAs to BJP despite being the leader of the opposition appointed on her own recommendation. Would this culture change after the next assembly elections?

Certainly not. Every MLA in this minuscule state craves for power. BJP has nothing to lose but everything to gain from this culture. If it senses that the defectors and certain dissenters in the party begin to get restless as time passes, we certainly expect dissolution of the assembly after the forthcoming budget session and early midterm polls. In politics “shock and awe strategy” yields good results.