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