The Fifth Assembly X-Rayed

By Prabhakar Timble
07 February 2012 03:43 IST

In the forty member fifth post-statehood legislative assembly of Goa, we have 12 ministers and another 14 MLAs decorated on government corporations or statutory authorities to ensure that none of the ruling coalition is left out. Fourteen sessions of the assembly were convened totally amounting to around 100 working days in five years. Three members i.e. Dayanand Sopte (Pernem), Rajesh Patnekar (Bicholim) and Xavier Pacheco resigned from the assembly before completion of the full term. The first two were enticed to the Congress ostensibly by Vishwajeet Rane probably with offers which both could not refuse. Vishwajeet had himself resigned from the assembly in June, 2010 as independent MLA to seek re-election as Congress MLA. This route was unearthed in 2004 by the then Poinguinim MLA Isidore Fernandes who had resigned from Congress to embrace the Manohar Parrikar led government.

Decline in quality                                                                       

The quality and quantity of the legislative assembly debates is on the decline. 20 days of sitting in a year is extremely insufficient to deal with questions, legislation and calling attention motions. Legislations get enacted almost without any discussion. Leaving aside the time needed for debate on demand for grants, appropriation bills and the yearly budget, scanty hours are made available in a year for the question-hour. Even these hours are not put to effective use due to the poor competency of the ministers in providing information. With the exception of Digambar Kamat, Alexio Sequeira, Vishwajeet Rane and Ramkrishna alias Sudin Dhavlikar who largely provide clarity and take legislative business seriously, the balance of other ministers were mostly rambling and unprepared. I would remember the heat the question-hour generated each time on issues relating to Panchayat Raj, Sports and Youth Affairs handled by Manohar Ajgaonkar due to gaps and cavities in replies. I cannot forget the almost casual and unprepared handling  by senior ministers like Churchill Alemao and Ravi Naik as if the Assembly hardly matters and the slippery Nilkant Halarnekar and Jose Philip D’Souza. It needs to be said to the credit of the opposition that Laxmikant Parsekar, Damu Naik and Francis D’Souza made studied advances. From the Congress, Dayanand Narvenkar offered strong resistance to the ruling benches. Of course, Manohar Parrikar often stood unbeatable as the Leader of the Opposition. Undoubtedly, his response and presentation is a result of deep study. But, his mathematic accuracy and magic of assessing figures even to the nearest paisa may win him the cap of intellectual arrogance. The report of the Public Accounts Committee under his chairmanship was not tabled before the House since the same was not accepted by the Committee. This might have happened to a PAC report for the first time in the history of Goa assembly.  The two MLAs who made the minimum use of the assembly floor to espouse issues of the electorate are Vasudev Gaonkar (Sanguem) and Francisco Silveria (St. Andre). However, the prize if any, for the maximum silence in the fifth assembly will go to Anil Salgaocar (Sanvordem). This constituency effectively went unrepresented for five years.

Posthumous awards

With the almost posthumous order of the Speaker of the Goa Legislative Assembly dismissing the disqualification petition against Churchill Alemao and Reginaldo Alex Lourenco on the ground that the petition had no substance since two- third of members are permitted to merge the party as per the provisions of the law relating to anti-defections as enunciated in the tenth schedule to the Constitution of India, there are still three more petitions pending before the Speaker. It would not be proper to attribute motives to the august office of the Speaker for passing the order almost on the eve of commencement of the election process to constitute the sixth Vidhan Sabha for Goa. However, the sudden wisdom to act ‘speedily’ when the effective term of the House has almost come to an end makes any analyst to spy for reasons behind this inconsequential order of the Speaker. This petition was filed in October, 2008 and the Speaker took five hearings and 39 months to dig the law and facts for a “reasoned” decision. The other petitions filed under the tenth schedule against Victoria Fernandes (ten hearings); Ramkrishna alias Sudin Dhavalikar and Pandurang alias Deepak Dhavlikar (16 hearings) were filed in July, 2007 and are kept for marinating for over 55 months.  The issue of the two erstwhile Save Goa Front party MLAs was at least technically projected as an issue of the merger of the SGF legislature party into Congress. When Atanasio 'Babush' Monserrate, the lone UGDP MLA brazenly joined the Congress party, no MLA from any political party came forward to file a disqualification petition. Probably, it would have not made any difference except one more requisition in the pending for disposal diary of the Speaker. Such criminal delays on the part of the Presiding officers of legislatures generate genuine credence that quasi-judicial matters are deliberately kept dangling for political games. I will also remember the fifth assembly of Goa along with this indelible pimple on the face of the Speaker, who otherwise has conducted the proceedings with dignity and fairness. This route demonstrated for giving an indecent burial to matters under the tenth schedule should not form a precedent for successive Servants of the House.

Lamb turns Lion

The two Dhavalikar brothers known as MGP were beneficiaries of the alliance including the flirtations with what came to be called as the group of seven which held the threat of destabilisation of Digambar Kamat government and coolly consumed the spoils of power and office. The announcement of the withdrawal of support by the MGP to the Congress government at the present juncture is like roasting its bread on the grave of the fifth Assembly of Goa. The MGP could be accused of the same offences and accusations levelled on the Congress as the two Dhavalikar brothers have never lagged behind in any sphere. The threat to disqualify both the MGP MLAs forced the party to continue as alliance partner is a white lie. This is like saying that the two Lions were caged and chained like animals in a circus by the ring master and hence they acted against their conscience and the mandate of the electorate during their complete term in the House. There might have been threats, but a political party is not so weak as to succumb to such threats and people are not naive to buy the argument when the two lambs of MGP were merrily gloating in the fodder.

Digambar Kamat completed a full five year term in office. Maybe a stroke of good luck was on his side despite the pressures of coalition partners and over ambitious ministers. His detractors say that he was not assertive enough and allowed a free hand to everyone to graze or grease.  The Chief Minister may give credit to the oracle, astrologers and his regular invocations in innumerable temples. All eyes are now on who will present the budget for 2012!

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

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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