In Parrikar's absence, is Goa's BJP-led coalition heading for implosion?

March 11 2018

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 Less than a week after Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, suffering from pancreatic cancer, was rushed to the US for treatment, his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government already appears to be shaky and dissent-ridden.

Signs of a seeming implosion in the coalition, caused by the absence of the authoritarian Chief Minister, can be seen in recent statements by not just coalition partners but also by frustrated BJP MLAs, who are now questioning their own party and government's resolve to find solutions to an impending ban on mining.

BJP MLA Nilesh Cabral is one of the faces of dissent.

Cabral, who has in the past found fault with the government's will vis-a-vis tackling the mining ban, has now also questioned the protocol created by Parrikar to govern Goa in his absence, which involves a three-minister committee and a slew of powers to Chief Secretary Dharmendra Sharma and Parrikar's Principal Secretary, P. Krishnamurthy.

"Today, we have practically no government. With due respect to the Chief Minister it is very clear there is no governance happening," Cabral said. "The CM is not here to take cabinet (meetings) and he has given some powers to the three. Who will chair the meeting? This has become confusing. I do not find any solution in this," Cabral added.

Cabral represents the Curchorem constituency in the state's mining belt, which is expected to bear the brunt of the Supreme Court-imposed ban on mining in the coastal state from March 16, to facilitate fresh issue of 88 mining leases.

The BJP MLA also claimed that no visible effort was made by the Goa government to find ways and means to resolve the issue, despite the fact that the Supreme Court order was delivered last month.

Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo, a BJP member, is also openly critical of his government's lack of decision-making and has subtly dared the party's central leaders, including Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, to urgently visit Goa and assure the state that a solution would be found to work around the ban.

"The BJP leaders who came down to Goa after the elections like Mr. Gadkari, should come to Goa now and assure the people that there is a plan to solve this problem. Over 100,000 Goans will be affected by the mining ban," Lobo told IANS.

He also wanted Parrikar, who has already been admitted to a hospital in the US, to urgently speak to the party's central leadership over phone and implore them to find a solution to the mining imbroglio.

Parrikar, as Chief Minister, has always been known to run a tight ship, cracking down on even the slightest whimper of dissent from his flock. But his absence has now emboldened leaders of the party's coalition partners.

Deepak Dhavalikar, president of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, following a meeting of its central committee, has raised a question mark over the future of the alliance -- especially due to the severe nature of Parrikar's ailment.

"Till he is the Chief Minister, we are there with the government," Dhavalikar has maintained.

The legacy of controversial, unpopular decisions of successive BJP-led coalition governments, like renewing mining leases in favour of tainted companies, U-turns on assurances to ban the casino industry, support to increased coal handling at Goa's only major port, nationalisation of rivers and now the intra-government chaos, as well as the shroud of secrecy surrounding the Chief Minister's illness, has triggered a rising trend of criticism against Parrikar, especially on social media, a fact that former Deputy Chief Minister and a member of the three-member ministerial committee Francis D'Souza concurs with.

"It is quite disturbing... Lot of things are happening which are not very palatable and are not right. I do not know whether it is political or not, but the fact is it is coming up on the social media," D'Souza said.

And fatalistic apprehensions by BJP lawmakers like Cabral appears to be only adding to the chaos.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in )

  • Source
  • IANS