Tai back as MGP chief after 21 years

| 05 November 2001 22:36 IST

Goa's former chief minister Shashikala Kakodkar is once again elected president of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, after a long span of 21 years, which may change political equations here once again.

In a neck-to-neck fight between young MGP legislator Sudin Dhawalikar and 66-year old Kakodkar, cadres of the oldest political party of the state elected majority eight members of Shashikala panel in a 15-member executive committee.

Among the elected rival panel is Pandurang Raut, transport minister in the BJP-ruled government, as the working president. The general secretary is also from the rival camp, Dr Kashinath Jalmi, a former legislator who had served the state as the minister as well as the opposition leader.

"The situation is ripe for the MGP to rejuvenate and march forward as the opposition Congress is doing nothing while people are fed up with the BJP's one-year misrule", states Kakodkar. The MGP is left with only two legislators in the 40-member House after another two - ministers Ramakant Khalap and Prakash Velip - defected to the Congress and then the BJP.

But she refuses to admit that the MGP is part of the ruling BJP government, though Raut is the minister and Dhawalikar (her opponent) is a chairman of the most influential Economic Development Corporation. "They had not taken party into confidence", she claims.

Though her working president is the minister in the government, Kakodkar feels confident that she could begin a crusade against the BJP with the help of selfless committed cadres and rebuild the party, which is totally scattered today, without even having block committees at the grassroot level.

In fact her victory is perceived as rebirth of a dormant regional party, which had ruled Goa for the first 17 years, from 1963, by her father Bhausaheb Bandodkar for 10 years and then by her for seven years, till 1979.

However, her decision to merge the MGP into the Congress cost her dearly while another attempt to float Bhausaheb Bandodkar Gomantak Party also proved futile in early '80s. She was then readmitted into the MGP in 1986 and was even elected a legislator twice since 1990, but without having much powers in the organisation.

Tai, as she is popularly known in Goa, feels confident that the party of 'bahujan samaj' could regain its roots by mobilising the youth as well as women. She is even seriously considering to rope in Christian segment, by giving up old programmes of Goa's merger into Maharashtra or the Konkani-Marathi language controversy, which had divided Goan polity on religious lines.

"It should be a party of every Goan which could give justice to regional sentiments", says the five-time MLA, when people are fed up with national parties like the Congress and the BJP. She is even planning to embrace so called non-Goans who are settled in the state for several years now.

Being a party of the Hindu bahujan samaj, the BJP had to establish its base here by winning over the MGP cadres in last 10 years while most of the MGP leaders preferred defecting to the Congress and the BJP to seize power.

Her victory is thus seen as an attempt to put a new life into it, while rejecting the elements who are hobnobbing with the ruling BJP or the opposition Congress. If she succeeds, then it could prove a major blow to the saffron party.

The 10-member 'original BJP' is presently ruling the state by embracing 11 more Congress defectors. Winning majority seats in the Assembly polls is still an unaccomplished task for the Sangh Parivar.

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