'Ailing' Goa BJP faces renewed attack from Opposition, civil society over Manohar Parrikar's continued absence

The BJP government in Goa has been under fire from the Opposition and on social media over the continued absence of ailing Manohar Parrikar and the 'misgovernance' in the state, because of the lack of a 'full-time chief minister' for a few months now.

Add to it the fact that Goa power minister Pandurang Madkaikar suffered a brain stroke in Mumbai on Tuesday and that Goa BJP leader Francis D'Souza, a senior member of the Cabinet Advisory Committee (CAC) set up by Parrikar before he left for the US for treatment in March, has proceeded on a month-long vacation to Portugal, it is not difficult to place the ire of the people and the Opposition against the 'dwindling' Goa government.

"The ongoing amplification of the crisis by the BJP-led government shows the party doesn’t care about people’s sentiments," Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Girish Chodankar told The Times of India.

File image of Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar. Reuters

File image of Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar. Reuters

He said it was ironical that D’Souza chose to hand over his ministry portfolios to Parrikar, who himself was out of the country. The Congress leader said Parrikar was unable to touch any official files and even if he could, he already held over 20 portfolios including finance, home, education and mines.

"The CAC was an alternate arrangement of governance. But now, with the CAC also not functional, Goa is left without any governance," he said.

Things became even murkier for the government because of the worsening law and order situation in the state, and it certainly didn't help when state BJP Mahila Morcha president Sulakshana Sawant said that the government "cannot provide security to every individual", following the gang rape of a 20-year-old woman by three tourists at Betalbatim beach on 25 May, and a minor being molested by tourists in North Goa a few days later.

Counting Parrikar, Madkaikar and D'Souza, the effective strength of the BJP MLAs in the government has been reduced to 11 for the moment. This seemingly favours the Goa Congress' stand, which is seeking adoption of the Karnataka example to stake claim to form a government in the state, where it had emerged as the single largest party in the Assembly polls held last year.

Numbers game

Congress Legislature Party chief Chandrakant Kavlekar said the party will stake a claim by submitting to Governor Mridula Sinha a formal letter containing signatures of all the 16 party MLAs.

In the Assembly elections held in March last year, the Congress had bagged 17 seats in the 40-member House, falling short of the majority figure by four seats.

The BJP, which got 14 seats, formed the government in alliance with Goa Forward Party and MGP, both of which had secured three seats each. Three Independents also went with the BJP.

Kavlekar said the Goa governor should follow the precedent set by her Karnataka counterpart and invite the single largest party to form the government "correcting her mistake of 12 March, 2017".

He was referring to the decision of Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala to invite the BJP to form the government after the Assembly election results were declared.

The BJP, which emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats in the 222-member Karnataka Assembly, was invited by the governor despite the JD(S)-Congress combine staking a claim by citing the support of 117 MLAs. The majority mark is 112 seats.

"We have 16 legislators with us and with that strength, we are the single largest party in the (Goa) Assembly. The governor should invite us to form the government in Goa as per the precedent set by her Karnataka counterpart, said Kavlekar.

When pointed out that the Congress needs the support of at least 21 legislators to stake the claim, he said that once the governor swears in the Congress chief minister, he will be able to prove his majority on the floor of the House. "The numbers will have to be proven on the floor of the House and we have that with us," he said.

However, he did not specify how the party would muster the majority.

Goa Congress chief Girish Chodankar said that the governors can't have two different set of rules. "While in Karnataka the governor has invited single largest party, in Goa too, the same precedent should be followed, he said. The Congress is giving an "opportunity to Goa governor to rectify the mistake which she did last year," Chodankar said.

The BJP-led government in Goa is headed by Parrikar, who is currently undergoing treatment in the US for his pancreatic ailment. In his absence, a three-member advisory committee comprising cabinet ministers is looking into the day-to-day affairs of the state.

Kavlekar said that in absence of the chief minister in the state since last two months, there is no government in place. "The Congress will be able to provide a stable government in Goa," the CLP leader added.

'Prove legislative strength if you want power'

Meanwhile, the BJP in Goa on Wednesday challenged the Opposition Congress to prove its legislative strength to recapture power in the coastal state.

The BJP also ridiculed the party's decision to approach President Ram Nath Kovind to demand a full-fledged chief minister for Goa, due to the prolonged absence of Parrikar.

"It is wrong for the Congress to keep demanding from the governor that they should be given a chance to form a government in Goa. The BJP challenges them to first prove their legislative strength in the House or outside. They simply do not have the numbers," state Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Dattaprasad Naik told a press conference in Panaji.

As for the Congress plan to meet the president, Naik said, "It is ridiculous that the Opposition party is going to the president to demand this. The government is working perfectly with the arrangement put in place by our chief minister."

Parrikar in damage control mode

Parrikar on Sunday called up some journalists close to him, informally briefing them about his health and his plans to return from the US. He made the surprise call on Sunday night to at least four local journalists considered close to him.

Speaking to IANS on condition of anonymity, some of the journalists he called said that they were pleasantly surprised when an Officer on Special Duty attached to the Chief Minister Office's called them on their mobile phone telling them that Parrikar would like to speak to them.

"The first thing he did was enquire about my health, which is ironic because he is the one who is ailing. He sounded a bit weak, but Parrikar told me that two rounds of chemotherapy are likely to be done later this week and after that, his return would depend on his doctor's clearance," said one of the journalists, working for an English daily and covering the BJP beat.

Parrikar, however, did not disclose his exact location or the identity of the hospital he was admitted.

The journalist also said that the chief minister explained to him the protocol followed in examining government files and taking decisions.

"Parrikar said that he has a daily conference via telephone with the chief secretary and the principal secretary to the CMO. Files and documents are scanned and sent to him by email and fax and the chief minister's decisions are conveyed by phone, fax or email. He said, that governance can be conducted remotely with ease in these days, thanks to communication devices," he said.

Parrikar's phone calls to the journalists came at a time when the BJP-led coalition government is under fire from the Opposition and civil society, who have accused the chief minister of holding on to power and not delegating responsibility to a cabinet minister to run the state in a hands-on manner.

Last week, the Congress also filed a police complaint, alleging that the chief minister's email on which officials communicate with Parrikar was being operated in Panaji. The complaint filed by Congress' Sidhanath Buyao with the Crime Branch, alleged that the Parrikar's account was being misused by officials to take decisions in their favour.

With inputs from agencies.


Updated Date: Jun 05, 2018 18:13 PM

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