It’s an irony of sorts that Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar will not be physically present as his government completes a year on Wednesday, March 15, 2018. Since the last two decades, Manohar Parrikar has been an influential figure in Goa’s politics. Last one decade actually belonged to him where he rose to prominence, getting to lead a majority government finally in 2012.
But despite being in majority, the BJP government could not win the trust of people. In the Assembly elections of 2017, BJP fell woefully short of the majority mark. The Congress with 17 seats in its kitty, was just four short of forming a government. The BJP was pushed to second place with 13 MLAs. To make matters worse for the saffron party, six out of eight sitting ministers, including Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, lost their own seats.
But Parrikar saw a window of opportunity here and quickly mustered the majority with help of opponents Goa Forward and Congress-backed Independent MLA Rohan Khaunte. The move certainly shocked everyone as they never expected staunch BJP opponents to join hands with Parrikar and become part of the coalition government. However, this was the reality.
Although BJP formed the government making a mockery of the public mandate, people accepted it because of their ‘Bhai’.
But the honeymoon did not last long. In complete contrast to Parrikar’s earlier three tenures, his performance on the economy, environment and law and order raised questions across Goa this time around. Coalition partner Goa Forward’s amateurish approach over issues like the statue of late Dr Jack Sequeira did not help matters.
In the last 365 days, the incumbent Goa government must have faced 365 protests over everything and anything – ranging from coal handling at MPT, river nationalisation, transportation rate for iron ore, lack of amenities for people living near mining sites like Sonshi. There was taxi operators strike protesting against speed governors. Although the public was with the government this time, it failed to act decisively and let the extortionist drivers off the hook instead of going in for app-based taxis like Ola. It was a case of missed opportunity.
Other issues like off-shore casinos, road safety, lax functioning of government departments like the PWD and Transport department and last but not the least, Parrikar’s decision to talk with CM of Karnataka for finding a solution to Mhadei river water sharing dispute, which was done at the behest of BJP high command, continues to evoke adverse reactions from people.
Even as these issues threaten to boil over, Parrikar has fresh problems on the iron ore mining front. At a time when Goa’s economy is already in trouble with a debt of Rs 17,000 crore, which is 20 per cent of its GDP, the Supreme Court has once again imposed temporary mining ban on mining activity.
The memories of the previous mining ban by the SC will return to haunt the government, that too at a time when Parrikar himself is away in US for treatment of his severe health condition.
On the political front, too, Parrikar is now forced to appease coalition partners. He has appointed the tainted Atanasio (Babush) Monserrate of the Goa Forward Party as chairman of the newly established Greater Panaji Development Authority. This move too is facing stiff resistance from various villages.
In an opinion poll done by GT on the eve of Parrikar government’s one year in office, people from all walks of life have heaped criticism on the government, giving it abysmally poor ratings. This shows that the people’s confidence in this government is fast eroding.
The future of this government now hangs in balance as Parrikar battles ill health and there is no second in command to take up the reins. In this situation, whether the State will again head for mid-term poll or not is anybody’s guess. The politicians and bureaucracy have to do a lot if it wishes to complete the full term.