Goa political mess worsens: Calls for Manohar Parrikar to resign, BJP's leadership crisis, upset ally, displeased voters

Goa Shiv Sena chief Jitesh Kamat probably put in words the thoughts of the majority in Goa. "The people of the state are praying for the speedy recovery of the chief minister, but that does not mean he should continue to put the state administration on hold."

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar's prolonged illness — he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February — and continued absence has taken a toll on the state administration. Public confidence in the state government is on paper thin ice, with residents of Goa growing restless over both Parrikar's absence and his refusal to hand over the reigns to another leader.

Goa could face a statewide agitation in 48 hours if the ailing chief minister does not step down from the post. The political crisis deepened on Tuesday, when hundreds of residents, social activists and political leaders marched to Parrikar's home and to demand his resignation.

File image of Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar. News18

File image of Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar. News18

Aires Rodrigues, social activist and the leader of the protest march, gave Parrikar an "ultimatum" of 48 hours to step down from the post, saying Goa was in need of a "full-time chief minister". "For the last nine months, the state administration has collapsed. The chief minister is not meeting his own ministers and MLAs," he said.

Adding to the BJP's strain is one of its regional coalition partners, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP). The BJP-led ruling coalition in the state includes the MGP, Goa Forward Party (GFP) and three independents, but it is the MGP that's demanding that a leader of the party be made the chief minister in Parrikar's place.

The party has threatened to contest the Lok Sabha and Assembly by-elections in Goa solo against BJP candidates if its leader Sudin Dhavalikar is not appointed the chief minister in view of Parrikar's health. A senior MGP legislator, Dhavalikar is currently the second most senior minister in the Goa Cabinet after Parrikar, who has been recuperating at his home since 14 October after being discharged from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi.

Unsurprisingly, the Congress has been vying for Parrikar's resignation for months for his absence. It has even gone to the extent of alleging that the BJP was "taking advantage" of Parrikar's health to get people's sympathy with an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Goa Congress spokesperson Jitendra Deshprabhu had said the BJP should have asked Parrikar to step down on health grounds.

In October, the Congress had sought a meeting with the chief minister. In a letter, Congress MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco had said, "Your long sickness has immobilised the day-to-day functioning of the official departments of the Government of Goa."

Lourenco had also pointed out that Parrikar's "almost zero public appearance" and absence to his chief ministerial office duties had "accentuated the policy paralysis of the state administration" and that "legislative affairs of the state had suffered when the February-March 2018 Budget Session was curtailed to four days from 22 days" in view of his health.

Parrikar's continuance in the chief minister's post could be a result of the BJP's reluctance to let him resign because of his general acceptance by both allies and the Opposition. It fears losing out on this power and disturbing the political balance in Goa if Parrikar — a popular people's chief minister credited with speedy development in Goa in terms of both infrastructure and education — were to resign. It is no secret that parties allied with the BJP in Goa because of their faith in Parrikar.

"It is a masterstroke," said GFP leader Elison D'Cruz, on the BJP's move to lure two Congress MLAs to the party. "They want to get a majority because they know we (allies) only went with the BJP because of Parrikar."

Moreover, the lack of an alternative to Parrikar, who was the BJP's rallying point in building an alliance in Goa, could be another factor disallowing the party from letting him step down and recuperate without state responsibilities on his shoulders. The prime contenders for the role could be Goa BJP president Vinay Tendulkar, Assembly Speaker Pramod Sawant or North Goa MP Shripad Naik, who is the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the Ministry of AYUSH — none have the influence Parrikar has in Goa.

The political debate aside, it is the state of administrative matters in Goa that have residents agitated. Projects are on hold without the chief minister's nod and those that were underway have also seen no progress without Parrikar's signature to go ahead with necessary procedures. Frontline quoted a government official as saying that there's a virtual shutdown in the Goa Cabinet.

With uncertainty over its future in Goa, the BJP had planned to discharge Parrikar from the duties of a number of departments he holds in the Goa government and shift the responsibility to other party ministers as well as induct defecting MLAs. However, this might prove insufficient given the current leadership crisis, paralysis in the administration as well as people's diminishing faith in the Parrikar government.

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Updated Date: Nov 21, 2018 16:24:50 IST

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