Senior BJP leader and former chief minister LAXMIKANT PARSEKAR, in an exclusive interview with RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR speaks about his future plans as regards the forthcoming Mandrem by-election and various aspects linked to it
Q: If Dayanand Sopte is declared as the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate for the Mandrem bypoll, which appears to be the situation, would you contest against him by moving out of your party?
Sopte resigned as the Mandrem MLA four months back and was inducted into the BJP the very same day. After observing the related scenario carefully over a period of last four months, I can tell you that the entire Mandrem BJP Mandal team has been working together, including all its 46 booth committees. It is solidly backing me, without which I would have been zero in politics. We all together nurtured the party and worshipped its ideology, and therefore, now feel that our state party president is taking us all for granted. It is obvious that Sopte will be given ticket as the Mandrem candidate of the BJP. In fact, it may be obligatory on the part of the party as they must have given him such an assurance.
I, however, feel that although giving ticket is in the hands of the party, electing him to increase the number of BJP MLAs in the Assembly is controlled by the electorate. Presently, the Mandrem electorate is highly appreciative of the unity in the local BJP Mandal. And this unity needs to be applauded as state BJP president Vinay Tendulkar could not get even one person to replace Mandal president Ramesh Shet Mandrekar. So much so that he had to import an outsider for the post – Madhu Parab – who had campaigned for Trinamool Congress, during 2012 Assembly election and went with Congress at the 2017 Assembly polls. Nowhere in the past, a non-member of the party had been appointed as the Mandal president. And see what Tendulkar has done for the constituency known for its organisation! I feel sad at this degradation.
Till today, I have been facing an adverse situation from the party and now don’t have any hope left for a miracle. If my supporters feel that I should contest against Sopte, then I will have to accept their advice. In fact, I have already received offers from other political parties to be their candidate. However myself, as well as my supporters feel that we all are basically BJP men, which does not allow us to commit a sin of defecting to any other party. We still act in the interest of the party and therefore, not taken any decision yet. We will wait till the last moment. My supporters are insisting that once the announcement of the BJP candidate in Mandrem is made, I should declare myself as an independent candidate. It would be very much risky on our part, but then there is no option.
Q: Bharatiya Janata Party national president Amit Shah held a meeting with you, during his recent Goa visit. Did he dissuade you from staking claim for the Mandrem constituency as party’s candidate, for the forthcoming bypoll?
I didn’t get any such hint during my meeting with him. However, the indication came that since Sopte was asked to resign as the Congress candidate and join the BJP, it became the responsibility of the party to field him from the Mandrem constituency. And if this was not done, then it would mean the party has cheated him. They want to honour the word given to him and nothing else. Nonetheless, the issue remains as to why the party had to take such a decision, and the answer is that the party wanted to increase the number of its legislators in the Assembly. The party still forgets that to get a candidate elected, he needs to be voted by the electorate. I told Amit Shah to appoint an independent agency and carry out a survey about the popularity of the candidate in Mandrem, so as to get the feedback. Winnability has to be the principal criteria. I have no issues as regards the benefits given to Sopte, including remuneration and chairmanship of the corporation. We are not against it. However, if the party has to increase its tally of MLAs, then it has to seriously think over it.
Q: Whom does the present political situation in Mandrem constituency favour and why?
I was representing the Mandrem constituency for continuously 15 years, till 2017. But then monotony can set in among the voters. I fully accept it. I also acknowledge that while I was the chief minister for two years and three months, my link with my electorate had become tremendously weak. I suddenly became unavailable for my voters and naturally they became discontent with me. I thought that my decisions as the chief minister, which were appreciated by the people, would make my electorate happy. I also felt that my work for the Pernem taluka including projects like Electronic City and Mopa airport would lend me support of my voters. The electorate, however, got alienated from me, especially after the malicious propaganda against me and I was defeated. I, however, welcomed the alternative that replaced me. Unfortunately, the alternative in the form of Sopte did not do anything for Mandrem during past two years, and everything came to a standstill. Today people have already compared his and my performance as the MLAs of Mandrem, and I need not say anything more to my voters. Frankly speaking, the winds are all unfavourable to him.
Q: Were you offered any other post like the state president of the Bharatiya Janata Party or governorship of any state in exchange of the Mandrem constituency candidature?
No. Not at all! Nobody has made any offer to me. However, many have asked my reaction to such offers, if they do come to me. These people inquired with me, what I would do if such offers come to me officially, or even unofficially. And my immediate reaction, which stands even today, was about regaining the confidence of people from Mandrem, which I lost at the 2017 Assembly election. I would like to regain it now. The party, then at the very next moment, can give me any other work. I am ready to accept it. My personal reputation is at stake.
Q: It is now aptly clear that the Bharatiya Janata Party is proceeding as per the situation of the day, with no respect and consideration for its committed and loyal party men. Is this situation similar to that existing in other political parties?
We used to claim that we are a party with a difference. However, as of now, looking at the way things are going, especially the situation which I am forced to face during the past four months, I can say that we are nowhere behind any other political party in such things. In fact, we are an inch ahead of other political parties. I agree that all is fair in love, war and politics, but we were raised on ideology, saw Vajpayee and Advani as our inspirational idols and wanted to convert the dreams of Deendayal Upadhyay into reality. We never rushed for achieving power, but waited patiently for it. Now, if party workers like us are treated shabbily by the party then how can we expect the voters to believe in the party?
Q: If you contest the Mandrem bypoll against the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate, you will have to leave your party. How much painful would that process be?
The BJP flag still flies over my office. In spite of the fact that party has many senior leaders at the local level, none of them has really tried to speak to me or my Mandrem team and find a solution to the problem. Nobody cared to undertake the repair work. These leaders have not done it out of arrogance, but as they cannot face this situation. In the process, they are on the verge of losing their good colleague. The party has to face the Lok Sabha election in the coming months and in Goa people are already speaking about these recent erroneous decisions of the party. I am regularly receiving a minimum of ten telephonic calls from people outside my constituency, who are part of our cadre. Their reaction to me is that I should go ahead and contest as an independent candidate. They, in fact, are ready to come and work for me, during the election campaign. This is just unprecedented. I am overwhelmed by it.
Q: Did you speak about the prevailing political situation in Mandrem with Manohar Parrikar, Shripad Naik and Rajendra Arlekar, the three other senior party leaders, who began their work in the Bharatiya Janata Party with you, some 30 years ago?
To put the things in proper perspective, Manohar ji came to work for the party some two years after us. I had visited him three weeks ago, and met him after a long gap. The visit was through an appointment and focused towards inquiring about his health. I was with him for around half-an-hour. We did not discuss anything other than his health. I had also decided that I would not rake up Mandrem issue and embarrass him. I did just that. Some local senior leaders are fully sympathetic to me, while others are shying away from discussing the issue and rectifying the situation. As for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, its leaders have not deliberated on the issue with me, till now. The new RSS that has gone with the Goa Suraksha Manch has, however, expressed its sympathy towards me.