By Prarthana Mitra
Early on Saturday, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar was taken ill and airlifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. What followed was a mad scramble for control in Goa’s ruling coalition Assembly.
Parrikar has been undergoing treatment for his pancreatic ailment for a while and even spent three months in the US owing to complications. Before leaving, he had formed a Cabinet Advisory Committee to guide the state during his absence. However, several contend that the coalition which was formed after a hung majority in the polls, did not give Parikar the authority he’d have wished to command, owing to his ill health from the time he assumed chief ministership in March 2017.
What has BJP and its allies differed on?
On Saturday, one of BJP’s ruling partners, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, contended that the “senior-most member of the cabinet” should stake a claim to Parrikar’s seat in his absence. By that rule, the state’s de facto minister would be MGP’s own Ramkrishna Sudin Dhavalikar.
The Goa Forward Party opposed this immediately, backed by an independent minister, Govind Gaude. BJP came down on this proposal the hardest. “What is the meaning of senior-most leader?” BJP leader Nilesh Cabral asked, claiming that representatives from his party were senior in terms of “longer legislative experience.”
Cabral also announced that the BJP Legislature Party will convene on Monday to “find an acceptable solution” to the vacuum created by Parrikar’s absence. “Right now, the chief minister’s health is our priority,” he added. According to a senior BJP leader, several key party members from Delhi are also scheduled to fly in on Sunday and propose their allies to merge with the BJP.
How has the opposition responded?
The indecision tantamount to disarray has drawn criticism from the opposition that called this an example of BJP’s political ploy to create a “confusion of epic proportions” and dissolve the 16-month assembly and conduct fresh polls. Girish Chodankar has reportedly already alerted the Governor that BJP may be trying to covertly impose President’s rule in the coastal state.
Congress also accused BJP of not having a “trusted lieutenant” to take charge while the chief minister is away. The incumbent ruling party before the coalition came to power, Congress sympathised with Parrikar’s present condition, but blames his “snatching away the mandate given to the Congress in the 2017 Assembly election and his mismanagement of all major issues, including mining, food adulteration, pollution, casinos, unemployment” for driving Goa “to the edge”.
In an exact reversal of fate as the one BJP suffered in Karnataka earlier this year, the Congress had won the elections as the single-largest party in 2017, but without a clear majority. The BJP had then been invited to form the government in an alliance with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the Goa Forward Party, a decision that many claim has led to the events unfolding this week and the next.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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