It would enhance the stature of Congress if it were to sincerely wish that Parrikar recovers fully and governs the State according to the public mandate.
Opposition parties in Goa have been raising a brouhaha over Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s long absences since he has had to frequently visit the US for sustained treatment of an ailment. They claim that governance has become a victim and that the people of the State have been at the receiving end as a consequence. They have demanded the installation of a new Chief Minister, failing which they want a fresh election in the State. They have even met the Governor and sought his intervention.
By demanding a “full-time” Chief Minister in place of Parrikar, it hopes to inject an element of instability in the coalition regime.
It’s not unusual for political leaders to go abroad for treatment. Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Chief Ministers, serving or former, have been doing so for decades. It is also not unusual for work to continue in their absence, because there is an administrative mechanism that takes care of such contingencies. For instance, if a Prime Minister is out of station, it’s usually the senior-most Minister in the Cabinet or one that the Prime Minister specifies, who holds the fort in the latter’s absence. Work in Kerala did not come to a standstill when Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan decided to seek treatment abroad, a few days ago, although the State is faced with the monumental task of rebuilding after the flood devastation. He was supposed to leave before but could not because of the calamity. Nobody criticised him for his decision, and rightly so. These are not occasions for petty politics.
In the Goa case, when Parrikar went to the US after a hospital in Mumbai referred him there, the period of absence was for some weeks. He thus formed a three-member panel to look after the day-to-day affairs of the State. This committee had a member each from the Bharatiya Janata Party and two coalition partners, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP). But the Congress was not satisfied. Ostensibly in the interests of the State, it staged a demonstration at the memorial of the State’s first Chief Minister, Dayanand Bandodkar, demanding a “full-time Chief Minister”. Since then, Parrikar has had to make more foreign visits in connection with his ailment.
Why is the Congress actually creating such a fuss? The fact is that it is least bothered about governance in Parrikar’s absence. That argument is only a smokescreen. By demanding a “full-time” Chief Minister in place of Parrikar, it hopes to inject an element of instability in the coalition regime. Like everyone else, the Congress knows that Parrikar’s leadership is the glue that holds the three-party combine, and if that glue were to be removed, the alliance could be in trouble. The Congress is right in some ways. Let’s go back a little in time.
Principal opposition party believes that, if an ailing Parrikar is replaced by another leader, it would be able to woo at least one of the partners to its side.
The last Assembly election in Goa had thrown up a hung House. The Congress had emerged as the single largest party, dealing a blow to the BJP which ruled the State. With its numbers, the Congress had the potential to stitch alliances with regional parties and form a Government. And it seemed on the way to doing so. Parrikar was away from the State — he was then the country’s Defence Minister. Many observers had pointed out that the BJP’s poor performance had been largely due to the ineffective leadership at the State level in Parrikar’s absence.
But just when the Congress appeared to have its way, the BJP sprung a sudden surprise. As a master-stroke, it announced that Parrikar was its candidate for the chief ministership and that he was being released from the Union Cabinet by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in pursuit of that desire. Parrikar flew down to Goa in double quick time, and soon enough the MGP and the GFP joined hands with the BJP. Earlier, both the regional parties had made it known that they would partner the BJP in case Parrikar were to be the Chief Minister. The Congress thus lost out in the race to form the Government.
Now, the principal opposition party sees for itself another chance. It believes that, if an ailing Parrikar is replaced by another leader, it would be able to woo at least one of the partners to its side, leading to a fall of the BJP-led regime. The Congress is engaged in cold-blooded politics even as the Chief Minister is facing personal challenges. But Parrikar is not ready yet to oblige the Opposition, which is circling like a vulture. He may be physically less fit than he was a couple of years ago, but political shrewdness hasn’t deserted him. It would enhance the Congress’s stature if it were to express the sincere wish that Parrikar recovers fully and governs the State according to the public mandate.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.