Opposition opposes minister's removal

| 10 August 1999 23:16 IST

Goa always writes unique chapters in India’s political history. This time it is the Congress minister proposed to be dropped from the cabinet within two months and the opposition is protesting against it.

Nirmala Sawant, the power minister, was summoned to Delhi by AICC president Sonia Gandhi to discuss the issue while the whole state seems to be agitated over it. The proposal is to make her the Goa PCC president, the post she was holding at one time, before getting elected for the first time.

Not only a few Congress ministers and legislators but community organisations, newspapers and even the opposition parties like the BJP and the Nationalist Congress Party have put their weight behind her. Dr Wilfred de Souza, who recently joined the NCP, was the first one to protest.

Chief minister Luizinho Faleiro, while asking Sawant to step down, is trying to portray that it is a sincere attempt to keep the party together. To calm down the greedy aspirants for ministerial berths, he plans to accommodate a few dissidents in the six-member cabinet, which is not allowed to be expanded beyond eight or nine by Mrs Gandhi.

Meeting the high command last week, Faleiro had also proposed to drop health minister Francisco Sardinha, the former MP, and allot him the Lok Sabha seat from South Goa. Incidentally, Sardinha and Sawant are the only two Congress loyalists in the cabinet who have not defected, unlike others including Faleiro. He wants to now accommodate a few, who have threatened to revolt.

Reacting sharply against Faleiro’s proposal, Gomantak Times criticises the Congress policy which "encourages greed and discourages loyalty; which punishes commitment and rewards opportunism. Are these the kind of values Sonia Gandhi wishes to promote ?", asks the reputed local daily.

But Manohar Parrikar, the state opposition leader, suspects a different game altogether, making the power minister the sacrificial goat to please around 50 power guzzling ferro alloy units in the state. Sawant had recently clamped down upon the guzzlers, cutting a few connections after nabbing them red handed.

Precisely this is the reason why Sawant is gaining support from all possible corners, since the state is starving for power while the ferro alloy units are consuming most of the available electricity illegally. The year-long ban imposed by the high court for new connections is thus still not lifted.

Everyone is awaiting for what transpires in Delhi while Sawant has agreed to step down if Mrs Gandhi tells her to do so. But this may just be an excuse to lit the fire of revolt, which has been brewing within the party from the day Faleiro was sworn in on 9 June. Hardly anybody is happy with his allegedly autocratic functioning.

The chief minister has already come under fire for stripping off the state chief secretary completely even by taking over his executive powers to write confidential reports of the bureaucrats, while its legal sanctity is being now questioned.

The shadow of instability is brightly visible as he has already announced to form a coalition government with Ramakant Khalap-led Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party despite ‘enjoying’ support of 23 Congress legislators and one independent in the 40-member House.

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