Comings and Goings

By Ashwin Tombat
15 January 2017 18:27 IST

THE MAN of the moment is Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari. By making a cryptic comment that Goa’s next Chief Minister could “come” from the Centre, he has veritably set a cat among the pigeons.

Everybody wants to know: Is Manohar Parrikar going to leave Delhi and come back to Goa as Chief Minister if the BJP gets a majority (or cobbles one together), in the coming elections?

Mr Parrikar, for his part, is not saying. He is content to let the guessing game go on. When asked about whether he was likely to come back to Goa as Chief Minister, he replied: “Let us cross that bridge when we come to it.”

If the bridge in his statement is anything like the Hon Raksha Mantri’s pet project currently coming up across the Mandovi, we may all have to wait a good deal longer than we expect…

Building bridges has not been the BJP’s forte this election season. Its alliance with the MGP – one of the two legs on which the party raced towards an absolute majority in the last election (the other being the Catholic vote) – has collapsed.

On the flipside, the Congress has patched together an alliance-of-sorts, with Babush Monserrate, the NCP and Goa Forward. It may be overtly opportunistic and shamelessly short-term, but it does mean there will be less fragmentation of the anti-BJP vote. There’s also a significant X-Factor in the Aam Admi Party on the one side and the MGP-Shiv Sena-Goa Suraksha Manch spoiler on the other.

It’s common knowledge that the incredible landslide which demolished the Congress in the last election was a creation of Manohar Parrikar, rather than of the BJP. People voted for Mr Parrikar, because they wanted him as Chief Minister of Goa. They didn’t really vote for the BJP; the party won because it was his party. Without Mr Parrikar, the BJP is a greatly less attractive party to vote for.

In fact, it was another statement by Mr Gadkari that was of much greater significance. But in the general hullabaloo over Mr Parrikar, it slipped by almost unnoticed.

Nitin Gadkari, the party’s man-on-the-spot in charge of Goa, invited the MGP to join hands with the BJP after the elections. Considering how acrimonious the parting of ways between the BJP and MGP was, it was astonishing that he should have issued such an invitation. It’s another matter that the MGP has said it will ‘accept’ Mr Gadkari’s offer only if Sudin Dhavalikar is made Chief Minister.

All put together, it means only one thing. Despite the brave talk; despite the chaos in the Congress; despite the India Today-Axis Opinion Poll predicting that the BJP will win 20-24 seats in Goa – deep inside – there’s a voice telling Mr Gadkari that his party is unlikely to deliver in the coming elections.

And he is desperately trying to make the BJP a less unattractive choice for the voters, by dropping huge hints that if they vote for the BJP, Mr Parrikar may be back in the driver’s seat as Chief Minister after the elections. Mr Parrikar, on his part, is playing along by declining to confirm or deny…

So there you have it. Mr Gadkari knows. Mr Parrikar knows. Do you know?

This election is not going to be a cake walk for the BJP. It’s going to be a very difficult contest and, right now, the final outcome is very hard to predict.

Blogger's Profile

Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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