NANDKUMAR M KAMAT
THE BJP is in damage control mode at the Centre and the worst case scenario it had projected is to emerge as a single largest party in May 2019 to form the next government under Narendra Modi, a task which the calculations show is easily within its reach with loyal NDA partners. It has already written off Goa as evidenced from its procrastination over resumption of legal mining because it is working on a clear strategy to take up such complex techno legal issues only after May 2019 instead of getting bogged down in more litigations and controversies.
The new year would prove to be an agonising and traumatic year for Goa. We shall be prepared to witness many shocking announcements and developments. BJP had timed the resignation of two Congress MLAs on October 16, 2018 in New Delhi very well by counting the time required for the by-polls. Both Sopte and Shirodkar need to get elected before April 15, 2019 provided, they get another mandate from the voters. So the BJP must have factored in the time table of Lok Sabha polls by Election Commission of India (ECI). Goa would suffer if by polls for Mandrem and Shiroda Assembly constituencies are held just a few weeks before the April 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Because there would be two different codes of conduct and both these would stretch from March to end of May thus bringing normal work in the state and all-important government decision-making to a standstill for 90 days. The strength of seventh legislative Assembly of Goa is 38. Excluding three ailing MLAs, realistically it is 35. The Chief Minister Parrikar who couldn’t even cast a glance at his well-wishers on his 64th birthday would have to be a superman to attend the highly demanding Assembly sessions in future. People had seen the impact of the stress of Assembly work on him during the 2018 monsoon session. There is total suspense whether the customary short Assembly session with governor’s address to the House would be held in January 2019. There is total silence about preparation of the state budget 2019-20. There is complete secrecy about the much-awaited crucial visit of 15th finance commission this month to Goa led by Chairman N K Singh. The whole mood is to talk less to the media, suspend important policy decisions and draft legislations, and try to gain as much time as possible.
We now have a government which has mastered the art of “gaining time”. Obviously, they would do it till the simultaneous polls in April 2019. There is no question of anyone from BJP or MGP to be anointed as the CM till May 2019. Such news of presumptive “leadership change” is leaked just to gain more time and keep gullible Goans guessing. An Assembly without an active leader of the House is no Assembly. So Manohar Parrikar knows the way out of the present situation and he is sitting with a tight calendar. He has a perfect sense of timing. He had done this before in February 2002 for different reasons and he would do it again for his own personal reasons. He would continue as caretaker CM till next CM is decided and sworn in with Shripad Naik as an acceptable face of BJP. Even under worst-case scenario he would expect the BJP to emerge as largest single party with minimum 15 to 18 seats. He knows that there is no erosion from 3 lakh loyal voters of BJP. He knows that Congress party would never be able to project anyone as a future CM candidate and their infighting would never stop. He knows that BJP has played its cards so well that GFP and Congress would never come together. In the same way a potential tactical alliance between MGP and GFP is thought impossible. And an inconceivable alliance or a tactical seat adjustment between Congress (22), MGP (12) and GFP (6) would decimate BJP. He knows that the voters in Goa have seen how Congress party despite being in position to form governments quickly the tussle over CM candidates could not be easily resolved in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh.
Parrikar knows that his charisma and equation with the people of Goa since 1995 has not waned and even if he would not be campaigning, he would be able to reach them and their hearts. He knows that at least three Congress MLAs would switch over to GFP anytime in 2019 and contest next elections on GFP tickets. In these three constituencies there are no effective winnable candidates with the Congress. And if MGP or GFP agree for seat adjustment with BJP for 2019 then the both parties can come closer to form the next government as a functional alliance. BJP may contest 26 and leave 12 for MGP or 10 for GFP and 2 for supporting independents. BJP would be pleased to play MGP against GFP to derive the maximum benefit in bargaining for power. Parrikar knows that he doesn’t need GFP for seat adjustments and GFP, AAP would grow only at the cost of Congress vote banks with little impact on BJP and MGP voters. Parrikar seems to be absolutely determined to boost his party’s prospectus in midterm polls and his man Friday from the day he became MLA, Satish Dhond, a hawkish, loyal, disciplined and very hardworking personality has been specially brought in for gearing and toning up the apparatus of the party from booth level upwards. Satish Dhond is here because Manohar Parrikar wants him to put things in order and be ready for simultaneous polls in April 2019. He would not be here unless there is a plan to dissolve the Assembly and have simultaneous polls next year.
Although it is common knowledge that next Lok Sabha polls would be held anytime after April 10, 2019, the developments in Goa have escaped notice of the political observers. Almost all cabinet ministers and MLAs supporting ruling party are unusually busy within their constituencies and government is pouring money on roads, water, power supply in advance of the anticipated dissolution of the Assembly next year. The investments made by politicians on X’MAS 2018 and new year event sponsorships would further prove that Goa is gearing up for inevitable simultaneous polls in April 2019.