The Coming Storm of Instability

By Ashwin Tombat
24 March 2019 23:03 IST

The passing of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar was truly the end of an era. Like him or hate him, Mr Parrikar dominated Goa’s political firmament for most of the first two decades of the new millennium.

Eulogies have blanketed the mass media. But also some scathing critiques on social media that portray him as an unmitigated villain.

It would be old cliché, and a comfortable one, to say that “the truth lies somewhere in between”. I will not take that escape route.

Manohar Parrikar had his faults. He thought he had all the answers. He did not take advice. Criticism hurt him. In power, he made several ‘U’ Turns on issues he had championed while he was Leader of the Opposition.

But all in all, he was a great leader. He personified simple living and high thinking. He had a vision for Goa; he worked night and day to try and achieve it. His legacy will become so much clearer in the days to come, when this state has to survive and progress without his leadership.

Sooner, rather than later, Goa will miss Mr Parrikar. It will miss him very, very much.

Nowhere was this clearer than in the extraordinary powerbroking that went into the formation of the government following his passing. In a prolonged and unprecedented session of negotiating the give-and-take of the loaves and fishes of political office, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant was sworn in with two deputy chief ministers on the other side of midnight.

Deputy Chief Minister is not a constitutional office. No powers are attached to the post. The Dy CM takes the same oath of office as any ordinary minister. A Dy CM gains importance only if the CM gives important portfolios like Home or Finance to the deputy.

Portfolio distribution is already done. The ministers have got mostly the same portfolios as earlier. The only real gain for the new Dy CMs is the pilot police car that will now accompany their official vehicle with its siren wailing.

Mr Gadkari’s finesse in putting together this ruling combination is admirable. He could easily have persuaded Dy Chief Minister Sudin Dhavalikar’s party colleagues Babu Azgaonkar and Deepak Pauskar to legally split the MGP without incurring disqualification (two-thirds majority), join the BJP and take over the lucrative portfolios of PWD and Transport.

But he didn’t. He ‘negotiated’ with the two in Sudin’s absence, to create a deep sense of insecurity in the MGP leader. Then he deftly parried Sudin’s demand for a third minister from his party, ‘persuaded’ him to refrain from fielding his brother Deepak as an MGP candidate in Shiroda, as well as MGP candidates in the other two by-elections. And he offered to make him Dy CM.

The balance of power has been maintained. Otherwise, Goa Forward leader Vijai Sardessai would have become Goa’s only (and an all-powerful) Dy CM, with the ability to singlehandedly bring down the government anytime.

In politics, one has to sometimes take a step back, so that when conditions improve, two steps forward are possible.

But despite all of Mr Gadkari’s deal-making skills, bad days are ahead. We have a chief minister whose track record is unknown; what is known is that he has not much support base among his own party MLAs. Can he overcome this? We have to wait and watch.

But not for long.

‘Interesting’ days are ahead. The stability of this government is assured only till the coming Lok Sabha and legislature by-elections. Then, all bets are off. In all probability, this state may see a period of prolonged instability in which governments change more often than once a year — a throwback to the decade of the ’90s.

That is when we will all wish that Mr Parrikar had not gone; even his most severe critics!

Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate has already set the ball rolling. He has resigned from the Goa Forward Party, and announced his intention to contest the Panaji by-election as an independent.

This is only a beginning…

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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