The political and, maybe, even a constitutional crisis has been building up in Goa ever since Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar was stricken by a serious, wasting illness earlier this year. He has been in and out of hospital, having been flown to the US for the treatment of pancreatitis, and is presently admitted in the premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences in the national capital. So poor is his health that he has hardly attended office, working from home or hospital for brief moments depending on his physical condition. This is bound to tell on the working of the Goa Government.
Not only because the CM himself holds some ninety-odd portfolios but also because of the uncertainty over his health has paralysed all other ministries as well. This was natural under the circumstances. What lends a particularly sharp edge to the crisis is that a couple of Parrikar’s ministerial colleagues too are down with one or another ailment. According to reports, Urban Development Minister Francis D’Souza is being treated for cancer in a US hospital; Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar is recuperating at home after undergoing prolonged treatment in a Mumbai hospital following a stroke. Meanwhile, those who are fighting fit in the Government are engaged in weighing their options due to the uncertainty caused by Parrikar’s illness. It is under these circumstances that the Opposition Congress has moved in to stake claim for government formation.
In a letter to Governor Mridula Sinha on Monday, the Leader of the Congress Legislature Party, Chandrakant Kavlekar, pleaded against the dissolution of the Assembly and, instead, wanted to be called for the formation of the next government. The letter argued against the imposition of the central rule. It said that the present House was constituted only about eighteen months ago, it will, therefore, be unwise to inflict a fresh election on the State. However, since the present government is unable to function following Parrikar’s debilitating illness, and there is a leadership crisis in the ruling coalition, the Congress alone is in a position to provide a stable alternative. The composition of the 40-member House is such that a couple of members can always swing the majority from one side to the other. Though the Congress had emerged as the single largest party with 16 members, it was the BJP with 14 seats which had stolen the march in government-formation.
The BJP was helped by the selection of the charismatic Parrikar as its chief ministerial candidate. It soon cobbled together simple majority with three members each of the Goa Forward Party and the Maharasthtrawadi Gomantak Party, in addition to three independents and a lone NCP legislator. With a friendly Centre and a benign Governor, the wafer-thin majority did not pose any threat to the BJP Government. But it is undeniable that the single most important factor was the standing of Parrrikar in Goa. The State’s tallest leader, his popularity cut across barriers of parties, castes and religions. Yet, in his current stint as CM he seemed to have let down his admirers.
The lack of performance is one of the reasons the CLP leader has cited in his letter to the Goa Governor while staking claim for government-formation. However, Kavlekar has provided no clue as to how he would muster a simple majority. Admittedly, political circles in Goa are ago with speculation that the independents and the lone NCP MLA are ready to switch sides provided their conditions are met by the wannabe chief minister. All things considered, it is unlikely that Goa will experience a stable government given the current composition of the Assembly. The BJP leadership has dispatched observers to consider an alternative to replace Parrikar as chief minister. The task does not seem to be easy, since the party had attracted allies only because Parrikar was to lead the coalition. Of course, no legislator likes a fresh election so soon after the last one. Therefore, a spell of central rule with the Assembly kept under suspended animation seems the best option available to the Governor Mridula Sinha. She should take care not to install another government in a hurry which might crumble soon after because no leader has the binding influence which Parrikar alone wielded.