BJP’s Dilemma Over Mandrem And Shiroda


SPECULATIONS are sprouting like wild weeds over the delay in announcement of the schedule for by-polls in the Mandrem and Shiroda constituencies. Nearly four months have passed since two Congress legislators Dayanand Sopte and Subhash Shirodkar resigned their seats in the state Assembly to join the BJP. The new MLAs from the constituencies have to take oath by mid-April. One of the wild weeds growing in the political circles, especially the allies of the BJP, is that the BJP fears that the outcome of the by-polls in the two constituencies, if they go adverse to them, could be seen as a referendum on the Parrikar government and also influence the results of the elections to the Lok Sabha due in another two months from now. The fear is said to be making the BJP high command think if it would be wiser to dissolve the Assembly and have simultaneous elections to the Assembly with the Lok Sabha polls. However, any decision to hold the by-polls together with the parliamentary elections could lead to a constitutional problem as the results of Lok Sabha elections would be announced only in second half of May, by which time the scheduled six months’ time to fill in the vacancies in Shiroda and Mandrem would have elapsed.

Another speculation suggests that the BJP fears that simultaneous poll might prove to be a bigger gamble as the party-led government has not been able to perform well on account of the serious illness of Manohar Parrikar. What is adding to the speculation about dissolution of the assembly is the stubbornness of the BJP ally in the government, the MGP (Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party), to contest the by-polls. The MGP leadership has ruled out the possibility of its backing off even if the highest leaders of the BJP intervene in the matter. The other major ally of BJP, the Goa Forward Party has also said it would keep its option of contesting the by-elections open in case MGP does. The MGP’s decision to contest the by-elections has caused serious concerns among the BJP leaders. That might be one of the reasons why many in the BJP want the by-elections not to be held before the parliamentary elections.

With every passing day the political situation in the state is getting unstable. Owing to the lack of clarity all the political parties, in the ruling camp as well as the opposition camp, have been charting out their own courses for retaining or regaining power. The Congress party has started holding meetings in the two constituencies. It seems though that the Congress party is not very clear in its approach as far as selection of candidates for the Shiroda and Mandrem constituencies are concerned. They should have long selected candidates and launched them on to the field. Last week top state Congress leaders gathered at Shiroda for a meeting, but without any candidate to offer to the electorate. The Congress has to rebuild the organization and support base as their MLAs have deserted them in the two constituencies. The party should have selected the candidates well in advance so they would have had time to build and consolidate their position.

As the two Congress legislators had resigned their seats on October 15, the by-elections to the two Assembly constituencies could have been held together with the elections to three states, which went to polls last December. The BJP perhaps did not want the by-polls then as it wanted to give time for the voters’ anger against the MLAs’ ‘defection’ to subside. Though Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has ruled out the possibility of dissolution of the state Assembly many in the BJP and its allies are sceptical about it. They feel that political compulsions arising out of the failure of the government to resolve many issues, particularly the mining imbroglio, may force the Chief Minister to recommend dissolution of the Assembly and seek fresh mandate from the electorate. There is a feeling among BJP leaders  that holding fresh Assembly elections simultaneously with the parliamentary elections could help the party to win with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s  charisma and with the national issues gaining priority over local issues. Fresh elections are also expected to help the BJP contain the defiance of the MGP. It remains to be seen which option the BJP leadership chooses to gamble with. We hope the voters of the Shiroda and Mandrem constituencies are told in the next week or so when they should expect the by-elections, or, if it comes to that, fresh elections to the Assembly.