CONGRESS SMELLS AN OP­POR­TU­NITY

The BJP has no choice, ail­ing CM Par­rikar has to stay at the helm to keep its shaky ship afloat

India Today - - STATES - By Ki­ran D. Tare

Both the BJP and its al­lies greeted Amit Shah’s an­nounce­ment on Septem­ber 23 that the ail­ing Manohar Par­rikar would con­tinue as Goa’s chief min­is­ter with ex­u­ber­ant cheers. While for the BJP it ended the un­cer­tainty over the state govern­ment’s sta­bil­ity, the al­lies, in­clud­ing the three in­de­pen­dent MLAs, saw it as a chance to press home their de­mands.

Ad­mit­ted to Delhi’s All In­dia In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Sciences (AIIMS) fol­low­ing pro­longed treat­ment in the US, Par­rikar had re­port­edly of­fered to step down. Shah and his ad­vi­sors had even dis­cussed al­ter­na­tive can­di­dates, in­clud­ing Union ayush min­is­ter Shri­pad Naik and Sudin Dhava­likar, state PWD min­is­ter from the Maha-

rash­trawadi Go­man­tak Party (MGP).

But the prospect of a floor test in the as­sem­bly in the wake of a change of guard was deeply dis­con­cert­ing. The BJP has only 14 MLAs in the 40-mem­ber as­sem­bly. It is backed by three leg­is­la­tors each from the MGP and Goa For­ward Party (GFP) and three in­de­pen­dents.

Apart from CM Par­rikar, two other min­is­ters, Fran­cis D’Souza and Pan­durang Mad­kaikar, are un­der­go­ing treat­ment (in the US and in Mum­bai). So the rul­ing coali­tion’s ef­fec­tive strength was ef­fec­tively 20 mem­bers— ex­actly the half­way mark. Fur­ther­more, while Naik was un­ac­cept­able to both the MGP and GFP, the in­de­pen­dents and the GFP loathed the prospect of Dhava­likar as their leader. It was ev­i­dent to Shah that the govern­ment could fall if there was change at the top. “We had no op­tion but to con­tinue with Par­rikar,” says a se­nior BJP leader from Delhi. Mean­while, the Congress is link­ing the BJP’s de­ci­sion on Par­rikar with the con­tentious Rafale deal. “Shah and [PM] Modi don’t have the courage to ask the ail­ing Par­rikar to step down as he has in­for­ma­tion on the Rafale deal,” op­po­si­tion leader Chan­drakant Kavalekar says.

Amid wide­spread crit­i­cism that gov­er­nance was in limbo be­cause of the in­dis­posed

CM, the BJP sought a mea­sure of dam­age con­trol by re­liev­ing

D’Souza and Mad­kaikar on Septem­ber 24. Party

MLAs Nilesh Cabral and Milind Naik take their place. State BJP chief Vi­nay Ten­dulkar claimed the reshuf­fle was signed off by Par­rikar. “He is not well, but bhai keeps watch from his hos­pi­tal bed,” he says.

But that’s not the end of it. MGP chief Di­pak Dhava­likar says the sec­ond se­nior­most min­is­ter in the cab­i­net ought to have been given charge as in­terim CM un­til Par­rikar re­cov­ers. The in­de­pen­dents and the GFP, led by Vi­jai Sarde­sai, con­test this.

The BJP lead­er­ship is now con­tem­plat­ing a steer­ing com­mit­tee of se­nior min­is­ters to run Goa in Par­rikar’s ab­sence. The whole episode has high­lighted the BJP’s fail­ure to nur­ture a sec­ond-rung lead­er­ship in Goa. When Par­rikar was moved to Delhi in 2015 as the de­fence min­is­ter, Lak­sh­mikant Parsekar was made the chief min­is­ter. But he failed to im­press. In­deed, it very nearly cost the BJP the 2017 as­sem­bly polls; its tally dropped to 13 seats from 24 (Congress MLA Vish­wa­jeet Rane de­fected later, tak­ing its tally to 14).

An­a­lysts say that if Par­rikar doesn’t re­cover in time, the BJP’s cam­paign for Goa’s two Lok Sabha seats next year will be back to count­ing on PM Naren­dra Modi.

THE AL­LIES WILL NOT BACK ANY­ONE OTHER THAN PAR­RIKAR FOR THE CM POST

num­ber of places, in­clud­ing one out­side a CRPF camp in Srinagar.

After Septem­ber 21, dozens of SPOs have posted their res­ig­na­tions on so­cial me­dia and in let­ters ad­dressed to lo­cal mosque com­mit­tees. While state DGP Dil­bagh Singh sought to dis­miss the re­ports as “mo­ti­vated ru­mour-mon­ger­ing”, point­ing out that “they (mil­i­tants) have tried this kind of pro­pa­ganda in the past too”, res­ig­na­tions by in­di­vid­ual po­lice­men con­tinue to show up on so­cial me­dia.

In Kul­gam, Rafiqa Akhtar, a woman SPO who’s been on the force for 15 years, was among the first to post a video of her de­ci­sion to quit on Septem­ber 23. Sev­eral oth­ers, in­clud­ing 22-year-old Rameez Raja, posted at the po­lice griev­ance re­dres­sal unit with no role in anti-in­sur­gency op­er­a­tions, fol­lowed suit. That said, there is spec­u­la­tion that the cop res­ig­na­tions could be tac­ti­cal, quite like the pan­chayat mem­bers who ‘quit’ in re­sponse to a sim­i­lar mil­i­tant threat after the 2011 elec­tions. Most of them qui­etly con­tin­ued to work till the end of their term in June 2016. It has none­the­less forced the state ad­min­is­tra­tion to sus­pend in­ter­net ser­vices in Pul­wama and Shopian.

A se­nior J&K po­lice of­fi­cer con­cedes the in­creased at­tacks are af­fect­ing morale. As many as 37 po­lice­men have been killed since Jan­uary this year. A con­cerned state govern­ment is now plan­ning to build guest­houses for fam­i­lies within dis­trict po­lice lines as well as res­i­den­tial clus­ters in ‘safer’ zones. Mean­while, SPO salaries are be­ing hiked from the cur­rent Rs 6,000 to Rs 15,000 in or­der to make of­fi­cers con­tem­plat­ing res­ig­na­tion think twice. As an im­me­di­ate mea­sure, po­lice per­son­nel be­long­ing to south Kash­mir have been ad­vised against home vis­its.

A SE­NIOR J&K PO­LICE OF­FI­CER CON­CEDES THAT THE AT­TACKS ARE AF­FECT­ING FORCE MORALE

PA­TIENT ALERT CM Par­rikar in Goa in June after three months in the US

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