ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Goa : New Lamps for Old

New Lamps for Old The swearing in of Manohar Parikkar as Goa

The swearing in of Manohar Parikkar as Goa's new chief minister has been greeted with a big cheer by the BJP's local unit as well as its national leadership, notwithstanding that this is Goa's fifth government in 17 months. For the BJP the turn of events in Goa was a welcome respite after its drubbing at the Congress's hands in the Gujarat local elections. BJP president Bangaru Laxman has been quoted as saying that he hoped that a 'Goa-like' situation would arise in the new state of Chhattisgarh. The installation of a BJP-led government is a culmination of the BJP's decade-long efforts to make inroads into the Goan electorate. The BJP first contested the assembly elections in 1989 when it won no seats and got less than 1 per cent of the vote. But in the 1994 elections, in alliance with the MGP, it secured four seats. It was then thought that the BJP had piggybacked on the MGP, the party that had dominated Goan politics till 1980. In the 1998 Lok Sabha and the 1999 assembly elections, however, the BJP was on its own and clearly benefited from the eroding vote base of the MGP, whose strength in the assembly came down from 12 in 1996 to two in 1999. With the growing number of non-Goans in the electorate, the BJP played up its 'national party' image and the Vajpayee factor. More important, its 'soft Hindutva' stance, earlier the MGP's plank, seemed to work. The Church refrained from throwing in its support behind the 'corruption-ridden' Congress and the Alemao-led UGDP. In the event, the BJP bagged two Lok Sabha and 10 assembly seats. BJP workers were prominent in several campaigns over issues considered environmentally and culturally significant by a majority of the people, such as the large-scale protests that ultimately led to the withdrawal of the Thapar-Dupont project and the popular opposition to the Congress-led government's proposal to encourage casinos to attract tourists. BJP politicians' conduct in the assembly has been an altogether different story, however. In mid-98 the four BJP legislators helped Wilfred D'Souza topple the 25-month old government of Pratapsingh Rane and for some months supported the D'Souza government from outside. D'Souza resigned after another bout of defections and four months later, when he made a renewed bid for power, the BJP refused to support him, asserting a new-found abhorrence of the politics of defection. In 1999, having won 10 assembly seats, they collaborated with rebel Congressman, Francisco Sardinha, and dislodged the three-month government of Luzinho Faleiro. An appreciative Sardinha gave three BJP legislators cabinet positions. The then BJP legislature party leader, Manohar Parikkar, withdrew a case pending in the high court in which several corruption charges had been levelled against Godinho, the power minister in the Faleiro government, because Godinho had now thrown in his lot with Sardinha and was a partner in the new Democratic Alliance government including the BJP. Yet less than 10 months later Sardinha had to abandon official engagements in Australia as the BJP pulled the rug from under his government. In a replay of the floor-crossings that have been the bane of the many short-lived governments in the state, four MLAs from the Congress including the leader of the Congress legislature party, Ravi Naik, crossed over to the BJP, as did five members of the Congress (Sheikh Hassan) group that had earlier split from the Congress. Parikkar, in his letter to the governor, claimed the support of 18 members, besides two MGP MLAs and one independent, giving him a bare majority in the 40-member assembly. Accordingly, he was sworn in as chief minister on October 25. Parikkar will be hard-pressed to keep his rag-tag coalition in line and remain one-step ahead of veteran power-brokers such as Ravi Naik and Ramakant Khalap known for their track record of engineering defections. This will leave him with little leisure to concern himself with the development of the state, its economy dominated by the 'builder-contractor' nexus and the farm sector in a state of terminal sickness as a result of long-term neglect of investment, in irrigation in particular. The rabid utterances of the VHP at its recent conclave at Ponda on cow slaughter, conversions and rewriting of Goan history questioning the origin of Goans and the historical location of the temple at Bicholim have also raised questions about BJP's ability to continue with its 'soft Hindutva' policy that has yielded it rich political dividend in the past.

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