New Delhi, Mar 14: Despite losing the popular mandate in Goa, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended up forming the government by reclaiming its estranged ally – Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and inking a post-poll pact with Goa Forward Party (GFP). The prerequisite to the alliance, as laid down by the smaller allies, was the return of Manohar Parrikar as the Chief Minister.
Apart from the MGP and GFP, the 13 elected legislators of BJP signed a declaration demanding Manohar Parrikar to be sent back to Goa to lead the government. Paying heed, the BJP high command asked Parrikar to resign as the Defence Minister, which paved his entry back to state politics. On Tuesday, he was sworn in as the Chief Minister by Governor Mridula Sinha.
Parrikar, quite arguably the tallest contemporary leader in Goa politics, would begin his fourth term as the CM. Although the BJP has succeeded in keeping the post-poll flock together, Parrikar would face stiff challenges, both – electoral as well as political.
Voters of Goa have already expressed disenchantment towards the BJP by reducing it from 21 to 13 seats in the assembly. By diminishing ruling BJP with 40 per cent of its electoral strength, Goans have sent out a message to the saffron party. According to research columnist Sankrant Sanu, the outgoing BJP government, had failed to identify the core issues which concern Goans. Writing for Swarajya, he points out that Goans were aggrieved about the lack of steps taken Parrikar-Parsekar government to safeguard their culture.
Cultural protectionism was one of the key poll planks of BJP in 2012, when it wrested the seat from Congress. The MGP joined hands with BJP as it found an ideological ally on the issue. Before the 2012 polls, both the parties had promised to turn Konkani as the primary language for imparting education in all government schools. MGP had promised to withdraw government aid to all schools which choose English as the medium of instruction.
MGP broke away with BJP primarily on the issue of cultural protectionism. Since the government allowed the retention of English as a primary mode of instruction, the aggrieved MGP decided to walk out of the coalition.
If Parrikar, who appeared reluctant in replacing English with Konkani as the prime medium of education in his previous tenure, fails to adhere to the demand of MGP, the latter may choose to walk out of his paper-thin majority government.
The inaction adopted against casinos was another grievance against the incumbent BJP government. Despite promising to close down casinos after coming to power, BJP failed to launch the crackdown. Justifying his flip-flop, the outgoing chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar said, “We could not shift the casinos as they were working within legal framework. We are bound by the law. Casinos could have challenged the order of the government in the court. It could have been a slap on the face of government.”
Most of the casinos in Goa reportedly employ outsiders. Secondly, they are considered as dens of illegal activities. The casinos floated on rivers also damage the ecosystem by polluting Goa’s limited fresh water bodies and affecting livelihood of fishermen. Parrikar faces the immediate task of acting against the casino industry, which was accused of being hand-in-glove with the outgoing BJP regime by both the Aam Aadmi Party and Congress.
Another crucial promise which BJP is accused of failing to fulfill is eradicating the use of narcotic drugs. Following its victory in 2012, pollsters had credited BJP’s conservative stance as more believable among voters to take on drug mafia, as compared to Congress’ left liberal image. However, BJP is accused of adopting absolute inaction to tackle the menace.
“To say bluntly, the government has done very little in this regard,” Amogh Arlekar , Joint Secretary of the ABVP for Konkan and Goa. During the ABVP protest against drugs in June, the student outfit alleged that drug is being traded inside college campus.
Mining is another key issue where the governance skill of Parrikar would be put to the test. Due to illegalities in iron-ore mining, it was banned in September 2012 by Parrikar government, a decision hailed by anti-corruption activists. However, it led to acute shortage of jobs in South Goa. For the population living in Cuncolim and Karwar region, mining was an important source of employment.
The positive impact of mining was felt as soon as the activity was restored in a restricted manner in 2014. However, the Parrikar government would be pressed to take a call whether mining would be continued to continue job creation, or adhere to the environmental activists who genuinely point out the irreversible damage which could be caused to Goan ecosystem due to iron-ore mining.
Amid tackling all such issues, Parrikar would be bothered by the fact that BJP survives in power with paper-thin majority. Any sign of dissent among the allies could prove costly for Parrikar.