Is Mahagathbandhan possible in Goa?

By Cleofato A Coutinho
23 November 2015 08:57 IST

Whether the former railway minister can take his ‘Patna express’ to ‘Rajdhani’ in 2019 is the debate of this festive season. 

About 25 years back Congress lost its position as a central pole of Indian politics. In 2014, BJP is occupying that place. With the decimation of the Congress at the central level, the opposition space is up for grabs. Congress is not known to function when out of power. Congressmen cannot take to streets, always afraid of police lathis and lock ups with their past haunting them, making it difficult to function as responsible opposition. 

After its defeat in 2012, the opposition has not resurrected itself, despite the present government’s failure on every front. The nominees of the ruling party got thrashed at the Zilla Panchayat elections and in the Municipal elections, it managed to save face only due to a divided opposition. The writing on the wall is clear – The Parivartan government is facing a decline

The Congress could not provide a fitting opposition in the Vidhan Sabha nor it could street fight the government. Except YSR in Andhra, the Congress party is not known to fight back to power but power came back to them many a times by the failure of the other side. The man who kept the opposition flag flying in the Goa is the lone MLA from Fatorda, whose political DNA is of Congress type.  Whatever the Congress leadership may say about Vijay Sardesai, they owe it to him for taking on the ruling party inside and outside the House  for the last three and half years.

In a few months from now there shall be state elections to West Bengal, Assam, Punjab, UP and Goa. At a time when anti-Congressism is dead, new arrangements on anti-BJPism are being worked out.  Can Congress provide the alternative or political forces have to be realigned for 2017?

Except Salcete, where too many local chieftains are raising their head, the Congress party has not shown any remarkable rejuvenation. The strong anti-BJP sentiment at the Zilla Panchayat and Municipal elections could not be harvested by the party due to the peculiar stand it took at these elections. Both at the Zilla Panchayat and the Municipal elections, the victories were claimed by the local chieftains. Their cadre is in a state of stupor. A political party must charge its cadre by contesting elections at all levels to keep them battle ready. 

The local Congress leadership has indicated its allergy to alliance politics. They may be right, that once in an alliance, a party can get devoured by the alliance partner like it has happened to the MGP. But that happens when the leadership is lethargic and the cadre is not kept in a state of preparedness. It must not be forgotten that wherever the Congress party has lost power, it has not been in a position to be back even after decades. Tamil Nadu, Bihar, UP and MP are shining examples. Probably that is the reason why despite being in power for three terms, Tarun Gogoi has struck the alliance cord. In Bihar they understood that accommodation is a need of hour. In AP Congress could resurrect in 2004 due to street fighting YSR. In Karnataka they could redeem the honour due to a divided opposition (Yedurappa was then a rebel). In Maharashtra it was alliance with the NCP that could keep them in power for a long time, despite NCP’s bitter quarrel with  Congress leadership. Sharad Pawar’s DNA is also of the Congress type. In fact it is said NCP opposed the Congress but formed the government with it grabbing both the ruling and the opposition space in Maharashtra.  The Bombay Municipal Corporation remained with Shiv Sena for a long time due to the Congress-NCP clash. 

The local Congress leadership’s  opposition to certain leaders, who did business with the BJP, is understandable. Let us not forget that some of their present top leaders did business with the BJP at sometime or other. But the fact of the matter is that, the times now are different. If the party wants to take on the BJP, unlike the AAP, which immediately after a drubbing in 2014, stormed the basties of Delhi providing   an alternative to the Delhi’s poor. They succeeded without an alliance by grit and determination, not by sitting on their backsides in air-conditioned chambers. That is the reason why alliance looks to be the only alternative here.

The MGP is with the ruling party and it may be difficult to do business with them. Nobody knows where  NCP is headed. The other outfit called the GVP has expired shelf life. The Goa AAP is yet to bloom here. Vijay Sardesai, the strongest votary of the alliance  politics, has  caught  the imagination of the people.  But  Fatorda is part of Salcete and Fatorda alone cannot spearhead an alliance. Any alliance in Goa will have to be beyond Salcete.  The chieftains in Salcete are capable of self-destruction. That is the only taluka where the BJP took a beating at the Lok Sabha elections at the height of Narendra Modi’s popularity. What Vijay Sardesai can get on the alliance table is yet to be seen.  Whether he can provide a Sharad Pawar type of model and who are with him, only time will tell. But time is also running out. Can the Congress take all anti-BJP forces within its fold to harvest the decline of the Parivartan government as promised at Lohia Maidan? Keep in mind, Salcete is not Goa.

Who knows? As 2017 comes nearer, Manohar Parrikar may be back and has the last laugh!


Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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