The political scene in Goa has become murkier with BJP state president Vinay Tendulkar accusing former deputy chief minister Ramakrishna Dhavalikar of plotting to leave the ruling alliance and join the Congress and Dhavalikar accusing BJP leadership of unleashing enforcement agencies to maul him. There is no end to mutual recriminations since the BJP poached Manohar Azgaonkar and Deepak Prabhu Pauskar from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party. The BJP had poached Dayanand Sopte and Subhash Shirodkar from the Congress last October. Azgaonkar was rewarded with the post of Deputy Chief Minister, while Pauskar was made a minister and given the charge of public works department. With their ‘legitimate’ switch – two of the three members of the MGP – the BJP can now match the numbers of the Congress once again. It has also helped the BJP break the power of Ramakrishna Dhavalikar who they thought was extracting a much higher price for his support than he deserved. The BJP quickly dropped Dhavalikar from the cabinet within a week of elevating him to the post of deputy chief minister.
The swift execution of the deal between the breakaway MGP group and the BJP surprised many but the manner in which it was carried out indicated that it was a well-planned strategy. The BJP leadership was wary that ambitious Ramakrishna Dhavalikar could play spoilsport and use the numbers of his party to get the best deal for himself. Dhavalikar had made his ambitions clear when he expressed his willingness to head the state government during the prolonged illness of chief minister Manohar Parrikar. He was flexing his muscles and had declared the MGP’s intentions to contest the by-elections to the state legislative Assembly even as it kept the options to contest Lok Sabha polls open. There have been claims and counter claims by the BJP and MGP over the issue of the latter contesting by-elections, with the BJP claiming that a deal was struck between the central leaders of the BJP and the Dhavalikar brothers that they would not contest the by-elections. The Dhavalikars, however, said no deal was ever struck. The BJP was afraid that if the MGP increased its tally in the Assembly with a win or two in the by-elections the Dhavalikars might demand a greater price for their support and threaten to go over to the Congress if they did not get what they wanted. So the BJP decided to isolate the Dhavalikar brothers.
This is the first time in 17 years that the MGP is out of government. Ramakrishna Dhavalikar shrewdly got the best deal for himself. He however lost the plot in the bargain when he failed to push firmly for a cabinet post for Pauskar. That led to disappointment of Pauskar. Azgaonkar was also looking for a better position. The BJP was quick to take advantage of the ‘aspirations’ of the two MGP MLAs and their disappointment with Ramakrishna Dhavalikar for not helping them get what they wanted from the BJP. The BJP’s deal with Azgaonkar and Pauskar was struck with the party offering Azgaonkar deputy chief ministership and Pauskar a ministry.
Ramakrishna Dhavalikar probably never imagined his two MLAs will desert him at a time when he was at the stage of making the MGP stronger, counting on the good chances of his younger brother Deepak Dhavalikar winning the Shiroda seat. The BJP saw the threat that the MGP with four MLAs would pose to it and was desperate to not let this happen. The worst fear of the BJP in Goa is losing power to the Congress party by losing out on numbers. The desperation of the BJP shows in compromises of all kinds. Who would have thought Manohar Azgaonkar deserved to be deputy chief minister? His whole political track record, including his performance as Tourism Minister, has been poor. Not that Ramakrishna Dhavalikar was a star performer as a minister, but he had at least many years of being a minister, and not as bad as Azgaonkar. Besides, many of his decisions as Tourism Minister had been questionable. To reward such a minister with the exalted berth of deputy chief minister does not give a better image of the BJP. Ramakrishna Dhavalikar and Vijay Sardesai, the leaders of the two original allies, the MGP and the Goa Forward Party respectively, had been angling for deputy chief ministership even during the prolonged illness of Parrikar. When Parrikar passed away the desperate BJP bowed to them as a give and take for accepting Pramod Sawant as Chief Minister and continuing in the alliance. By bowing to Azgaonkar’s demand of deputy chief ministership the BJP’s morality has dropped to deeper depths and cannot be found.