Grand Goa Tur­bu­lence Is Back

Since Goa at­tained state­hood in 1987, it has had 18 CMs, three stints of Pres­i­dent’s Rule

The Day After - - CONTENT - By dAnFEs

With Chief Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar un­der treat­ment for pan­cre­atic can­cer and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) strug­gling to find a suc­ces­sor palat­able to all al­lies in the coali­tion govern­ment, Goa finds it­self grap­pling with ad­min­is­tra­tive paral­y­sis and po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty.

The cur­rent BJP-led govern­ment com­prises a coali­tion with re­gional play­ers Ma­ha­rash­trawadi Go­man­tak Party (MGP) and Goa For­ward Party (GFP) along with In­de­pen­dents, and hinges on Par­rikar as the only undis­puted leader. How­ever, this spell of tur­bu­lence is noth­ing new for the small coastal state known for its placid beaches.

Un­sta­ble gov­ern­ments have de­fined Goa’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape since it at­tained full state­hood in 1987, with elec­tions throw­ing up frac­tured man­dates, per­son­al­i­ties driv­ing pol­i­tics more than par­ties, and de­fec­tions al­most a lo­cal tra­di­tion.

Over the past 31 years, Goa’s chief min­is­ter­ship has changed hands 18 times, with only one in­cum­bent, Digam­bar Ka­mat of the Congress, com­plet­ing a full term. There have also been three stints un­der Pres­i­dent’s Rule — 14 De­cem­ber 1990 to 25 Jan­uary 1991; 10 Fe­bru­ary 1999 to 9 June 1999; and 4 March 2005 to 7 June 2005


Goa, a for­mer Por­tuguese colony, was an­nexed to In­dia in 1961. It held its first elec­tion in 1963, and was gov­erned by re­gional par­ties till the Congress es­tab­lished its maiden govern­ment there in 1980.

The state’s pol­i­tics has been es­pe­cially tur­bu­lent since achiev­ing state­hood, with its trail of frac­tured man­dates paving the way for dif­fer­ent kinds of po­lit­i­cal machi­na­tions to gain power.

For in­stance, the Luiz­inho Faleiro-led Congress govern­ment, which had come to power with a rare ma­jor­ity of 21 seats in the 40-mem­ber as­sem­bly in 1999, was top­pled within five months.

Fel­low party leader Fran­cisco Sardinha, who had chief min­is­te­rial am­bi­tions, broke away from the Congress with 10 other MLAs and joined hands with the BJP to form a govern­ment with him at the helm.

The Sardinha govern­ment it­self fell within just 11 months, when the BJP hatched a coup while he was in Aus­tralia for a tourism pro­mo­tion event. With the sup­port of 22 MLAs, the party staked claim to form the govern­ment. This led to the for­ma­tion of the state’s first BJP-led govern­ment, and marked Manohar Par­rikar’s de­but as chief min­is­ter.

“Goa’s pol­i­tics saw greater in­sta­bil­ity in the post-state­hood years as the stakes be­came higher for in­di­vid­ual MLAs to seek greater en­ti­tle­ments for them­selves and their con­stituents,” said Rahul Tri­pathi, head of the po­lit­i­cal sci­ence de­part­ment at Goa Uni­ver­sity.

“The small size of con­stituen­cies en­sured that it was easy for the lo­cal leader to swing the num­bers in his favour,” he added.

“It is in­ter­est­ing to note that even as the in­flu­ence of re­gional par­ties such as the Mahrash­tra Go­man­tak Party (MGP) and the United Goans Party (UGP) de­clined and the na­tional par­ties — the Congress and BJP — took over af­ter the 1990s,” he said, “pol­i­tics in Goa be­came less ide­o­log­i­cal and more trans­ac­tional, with both par­ties grad­u­ally

be­com­ing mir­ror im­ages of each other.”


Ev­ery con­stituency in Goa has about 25,000 to 30,000 elec­tors. Po­lit­i­cal watch­ers say this helps lead­ers build a base where they are con­fi­dent of re-elec­tion even if they de­fect from one party to an­other.

“This has given rise to small fief­doms of cer­tain politi­cians who con­trol two or three con­stituen­cies, such as Prat­aps­ingh Rane,” said ad­vo­cate Cle­ofato A. Coutinho, a po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor.

“Po­lit­i­cal par­ties are heav­ily de­pen­dent on th­ese per­sons. All this means that you have in­di­vid­ual politi­cians, and not par­ties, dom­i­nat­ing con­stituen­cies,” he added.

For in­stance, MLA Vish­wa­jeet Rane won the Valpoi as­sem­bly con­stituency in the 2017 poll by a mar­gin of over 5,000 votes on a Congress ticket.

The Congress emerged as the sin­gle largest party in the elec­tion with 17 of the state’s 40 seats, but the BJP (13 seats) man­aged to cob­ble to­gether a quick al­liance with the MGP (three), the GFP (three) and two In­de­pen­dents to take of­fice.

Rane sub­se­quently re­signed from the Congress and joined the BJP. In the en­su­ing by­poll for Valpoi, Rane won by an even fat­ter mar­gin, more than 10,000 votes, against Congress ri­val Roy Naik.

Re­cently, two more Congress MLAs — Sub­hash Shi­rod­kar and Dayanand Sopte —re­signed to join the BJP amid the lat­ter’s ef­forts to bol­ster its num­bers to dodge any Congress bid to un­seat the govern­ment.

“In a democ­racy, when peo­ple elect you for five years, one should com­plete the term,” said Govind Gaude, an In­de­pen­dent MLA and a min­is­ter in the Par­rikar cab­i­net.

“But, ul­ti­mately, it is in the hands of the peo­ple. The only way for­ward is if vot­ers put their foot down and give a de­ci­sive man­date that they are not will­ing to tol­er­ate de­fec­tions.”


The last decade in Goa’s pol­i­tics, from 2007 to 2017, has been rel­a­tively sta­ble. First, a Congress-led govern­ment com­pleted its term un­der Digam­bar Ka­mat, and then a BJP govern­ment un­der Par­rikar and Laxmikant Parsekar. The lat­ter took of­fice af­ter Par­rikar was ap­pointed the Union De­fence Min­is­ter.

Coutinho said the Ka­mat govern­ment’s full term could be cred­ited to the for­mer chief min­is­ter’s abil­ity to “carry the coali­tion”.

“But Ka­mat had to deal with vet­eran Goa politi­cians and for­mer chief min­is­ters in his cab­i­net and he of­ten had to give in to their de­mands for the sake of keep­ing the govern­ment sta­ble,” he added. “So, this also came to be known as Goa’s most cor­rupt govern­ment.”

The 2012-17 BJP govern­ment com­pleted a full term be­cause it got an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity — mak­ing it only the sec­ond ma­jor­ity govern­ment of the state.

“Po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity has been a tra­di­tion in Goa, but over the last few years, the av­er­age voter has grown more ed­u­cated, po­lit­i­cally aware and in favour of sta­bil­ity,” said Deepak Dhava­likar of the MGP.

Talk­ing about the re­cent de­fec­tions, he added, “We have seen de­fec­tions in po­lit­i­cal par­ties now for the first time in 10 years.”

“It is pos­si­ble that the new-age voter may not re­act very pos­i­tively to this. We will have to wait and watch,” he said.

Goa Chief Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar in Goa As­sem­bly

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