Brutus on the beach: Goa’s political castles crumble when CM travels abroad

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Panaji, March 6 (IANS) Known for its sunny beaches, Goa, which saw 13 Chief Ministers in 10 years through the turbulent 1990s, also has a reputation for its politically treacherous shifting sands.

The coastal state has been, in the past, particularly harsh on two Chief Ministers — both heading rickety coalition governments — who left the country’s shores on short visits, only to find their castles pulverised into the sand on their return.

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who left for Mumbai on Monday and is likely to travel soon to the US for treatment of his mysterious ailment, should know.

In the Chief Minister’s absence, a three-member Ministerial Committee –headed by a BJP Minister and having a Minister each from alliance parftners Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Goa Forward — has been named to look after the daily governance needs.

Both the MGP and Goa Forward have fought a bitter election campaign against the BJP in the lead up to the February 2017 polls.

In October 2000, Parrikar, whose Bharatiya Janata Party was a partner with 10 MLAs, including three Cabinet Ministers, in a coalition government led by the Goan People’s Party, had pulled the rug from under the feet of then Congress rebel and Chief Minister Francisco Sardinha’s 11-month-old government, when the latter was officially touring Australia soliciting tourism operators from Down Under.

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By the time Sardinha came back to Goa, his “holiday” had only begun, with Parrikar ousting him from power to become Chief Minister and installing the first ever BJP-led coalition government in the coastal state.

Now 72, the gregarious Sardinha, who is known for his full-hearted laugh, scoffs off the betrayal as a failed test of trust and fate.

“People had told me before I went to Australia that there were efforts to dislodge my government. I did not care about it. I said let us see what happens. When I came back it really did happen,” Sardinha told IANS.

The former school teacher, who returned to the Congress soon after the debacle, said that one has to take such political machinations in one’s stride because power to serve people, he now claims, is “not a matter of right, but a privilege”.

Incidentally, Sardinha had come to power by staging a coup against a Congress government led by Luizinho Faleiro.

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When asked whether there were similarities in the circumstances of his visit to Australia, the subsequent collapse of his government and Parrikar’s travel to Mumbai and a likely visit to the US for advanced treatment for “mild pancreatitis”, Sardinha said: “When we went (to Australia) we were alright. There was nothing wrong with us. It is when we came back that….”

He stopped mid-sentence, but held back his trademark guffaw, perhaps recognising the sombre reasons for Parrikar’s outstation visit.

But Sardinha was not the first Chief Minister to have travelled abroad and been stabbed by political Bruti on home turf.

The late Wilfred de Souza, a master surgeon by trade and reputed to have sutured most complex political alliances and combinations throughout his career — especially during the turbulent 1990s — failed to see his rivals within the ruling alliance quietly use the scalpel to dissect his coalition government in 1998, when he was serving his third stint as Chief Minister.

De Souza was in London in November 1998, when his Goa Rajiv Congress-led coalition government, supported by the MGP and BJP, caved in after his alliance partners pulled back and his fellow Cabinet Ministers led by Dayanand Narvekar staged a coup by joining hands with the Congress.

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Trajano D’Mello, one of de Souza’s key aides at the time and now chief spokesperson of the Goa Forward party recalled that one of the options before the Uganda-born Chief Minister, before he left for London, was to dissolve his own government.

“This was one of the options on the table, which was ignored. As a result when the Chief Minister was in London, the coup was engineered by some of our cabinet ministers, with support from other MLAs,” D’Mello said.

Commenting on the present-day servility of the opposition party, the Congress in Goa, D’Mello said the opposition benches then were occupied by powerful leaders who could take the government to task and one strategic slip-up could mean the end of a government.

“Today, in the Chief Minister’s absence, this government is absolutely safe. There is no threat. This is also because the Opposition in Goa right now is so lifeless and incapable,” D’Mello said.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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