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A Party Out Of Tune

MGP needs to reinvent itself to attract youth to the party

THE Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, the oldest political party in the state, has announced that it was going to modify its constitution for greater representation and participation of youth in the party affairs. The 55-year-old party is obviously feeling the alienation from the younger generation ageing brings. The party, which originated under special circumstances following the Liberation, faces great challenges to prove its relevance to the Goa of today, especially when the BJP has succeeded in building its edifice with bricks from MGP ruins.  The party is on a downslide and hoping that infusion of youth might change the course of its destiny. The party has been run by veterans, many of whom have been associated with it since its inception. The party has got identified with the Dhavlikar brothers, and particularly Ramakrishna Dhavlikar has retained his support base from the decades past.  

The MGP, which ruled the state continuously from 1963 to 1979, barring small periods of President Rule, has not been able to regain its old glory since it was thrown out of power by the Congress in 1980. The party suffered defeat even in the 1984 elections. The party managed to win 18 seats in 1989 elections, its best performance since losing power, but it again yielded power to the Congress which won more seats and succeeded in winning over independents to its side. Unable to take on the Congress on its own, the MGP allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1994. The alliance won 16 seats (MGP 12, BJP 4) but the number was not enough to form government. In subsequent elections the BJP managed to upstage the MGP whose strength has been reduced to single digit since the 1999 Assembly elections. The alliance of MGP with the BJP resulted in its workers and supporters switching over to the latter.

Most of the MGP leaders have been failing to get elected to the Assembly except Ramkrishna Dhavlikar, who has managed to win every Assembly election since 1999 from the Marcaim constituency. Dhavlikar, by changing sides, became a minister in every government that was formed in the state in the last two decades. It was only recently that he was dropped from the BJP-led government. He finds himself out of power for the first time in two decades. Perhaps losing ministry has made Dhavlikar and other MGP leaders to rethink the party strategy to regain strength and relevance to the state’s political arena. It is worth noting that the MGP leaders did not think of getting youth in the party’s decision-making bodies such as the central committee until they felt they were becoming irrelevant to the state’s power politics. 

If the MGP today finds itself in doldrums the blame should go to Ramakrishna Dhavlikar who has promoted his and his family’s interests (prominently of his younger brother and party president Pandurang Dhavlikar’s). Many in the party say that if the party is alive today it is not because of Ramakrishna Dhavlikar but the faith of thousands of bahujan samaj voters who reposed their complete trust in the first chief minister of Goa, the late Dayanand Bandodkar. The Dhavlikar brothers have often been accused of restricting the growth and expansion of the party by using it for their self-interest.

Before we come to the question whether the MGP will be able to attract youth to the party we have to answer the question whether the MGP would decentralize leadership and decision making. The best course for the MGP would be not to try and grow by sidelining the Dhavlikar brothers, but by nurturing and developing new leaders who should benefit from the presence and guidance of the Dhavlikar brothers and yet be dynamic and independent enough to inspire youth to join the party. With the tides of time the bahujan samaj has ceased to be a monolith; it is divided into several camps, each having its own political preferences. The younger generation of the bahujan samaj is as much exposed to the current political, economic and social trends as those of other communities. In order to attract the bahujan samaj youth, the MGP will have to reinvent itself to appear as a party in tune with the times.

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