Manohar Parrikar passes away: Congress' hurry to stake claim to form Goa govt can be costly mistake, sends sign of desperation

Manohar Parrikar's death has caused turmoil in Goa politics. While the ailing chief minister’s death was not entirely unexpected, his demise still came across as sudden. With the former defence minister's death, Goa is in the grip of a political frenzy even as Indians, and not just Goa residents, are in mourning. The BJP is trying desperately to reach a consensus over the next chief minister and is in prolonged talks with allies led by Union minister and senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari.

According to media reports, the discussions remain inconclusive because there has been no consensus between BJP and its alliance partners Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Goa Forward Party (GFP) over the announcement of a new chief minister.

Latest media reports indicate that a decision could be reached as soon as 2pm and the new chief minister would be sworn in an hour later.

Whether or not that deadlock is broken remains to be seen. To recall, the BJP’s alliance with MGP, GFP, an NCP legislator and an independent was incumbent on a condition that Parrikar will remain the chief minister. His death, therefore, creates a void for renewed politicking in the state before even the state funeral has been held.

This is where the Congress is possibly losing the plot. Its restlessness is understandable. The former defence minister’s demise on Sunday evening has reduced BJP’s strength in the 40-seat state Assembly from 13 to 12. However, the BJP-led coalition has 20 seats, one more than the majority mark of 19 in the Assembly where the effective strength is 36.

 Manohar Parrikar passes away: Congress hurry to stake claim to form Goa govt can be costly mistake, sends sign of desperation

File image of Manohar Parrikar, who passed away on Sunday. PTI

The Congress, which is the single-largest party in the state with 14 seats, obviously believes that it may trigger a crack in the ruling coalition on the question of chief ministership. In the past 48 hours, it has shot off two letters to the governor, staking a claim to form the government. The second letter, signed by the Lead of Opposition and Congress’s Goa state president, urges the governor to take “immediate action”… “for smooth transition and transfer of power.” It claims that the BJP is now ally-less and the “Congress being the single largest party… is entitled to be invited to form the best government."

The Congress is entitled to stake its claim given the fluid nature of politics in the state. But politics, among other things, is also about timing. Congress' unseemly hurry in staking claim for power almost as soon as news emerged of Parrikar’s passing away paints a picture of desperation. This could be a costly mistake.

The Congress, in its hurry to form the government in a state where it perceives to have been wrongly kept away from power, may have underestimated the stature of Parrikar in the state and the sensitivity associated with the death of a popular chief minister. Death is always a sensitive issue. The demise of a chief minister in office, who presented the state budget even as he was visibly pale and unwell, even more so. Parrikar’s long dedication towards Goa, his administrative abilities and his heroic display of fortitude in the final days of his life endeared him even more to his people.

Congress’s rapid-fire moves, political mobility, relentless pressure on the governor and staking of claim — all before even Parrikar’s last rites could be performed — risk being interpreted as a mark of disrespect towards the former defence minister who lost his battle to pancreatic cancer. Voting in democracy is as much a rational decision as an emotive one. With Lok Sabha polls scheduled so close to the turmoil, the Congress may pay a heavy price for its rush.

When it comes to Parrikar, the Congress is on stickier ground still due to the conduct of its president who became involved in an ugly controversy. In January this year, Rahul Gandhi had called upon the ailing chief minister ostensibly to wish him well and then later in the same day at a rally in Kochi, Kerala, dragged Parrikar into Congress’s campaign against Rafale by saying, “Former defence minister Manohar Parikkar said he had nothing to do with the new Rafale deal and Ambani’s involvement.” This remark came shortly after he had posted on Twitter that he had met the Goa CM in the morning.

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The implication wasn’t lost on anyone and triggered a huge controversy. It prompted an outraged Parrikar, still suffering from cancer, to address Rahul Gandhi in a letter where he admitted that felt “let down” that the Congress president had “used a courtesy visit for petty political gains.”

On social media, many users reminded Rahul of Parrikar’s letter when the Congress president had posted his condolence message on Sunday. The perception that Congress had “insulted” the CM at a time when he was locked in a grim battle with a terminal illness didn’t make for good headlines. That impression may get fortified further at the incidents that unfolded since his death. The Congress may experience a backlash on 23 April.

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Updated Date: Mar 18, 2019 15:22:31 IST