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After rocky start, smooth sailing for Goa’s NDA govt

LiveMint logoLiveMint 01-08-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: Four months after its patchwork coalition got off to a rocky start, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in Goa is sailing smoothly, helped along by the winds of political change sweeping the country.

Quick thinking in the wake of assembly election results helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—which came behind the Congress—assemble a coalition of Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party (MGP), Goa Forward Party (GFP), and independents to form the government, even as election topper Congress cried foul. However, a few months on, there are few doubts about the stability and survival of the Manohar Parrikar-led government.

Political observers say a combination of local and national factors strengthened the coalition. Mumbai-based political analyst Jai Mrug pointed out that across the country, political parties—both allies and others—have reconciled with the BJP consolidation and tagged on to the saffron party. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, he said, returned to the NDA precisely because he saw no space for an anti-incumbency narrative. In Goa, local commentators say, the BJP allies saw sense in continuing with the BJP because there was no alternative.

In March, the Goa BJP which won 13 of 40 seats outwitted the Congress, which had won 17. The Congress leaders were left accusing the BJP of undemocratic conduct and fighting its internal battles. One Congress leader Vishwajit Rane, who had won the election on a Congress ticket resigned to mark his protest at the Congress party’s failure to form the government and joined the BJP.

Between April and June, several Congress leaders openly called for toppling the Parrikar government. Last month, the All India Congress Committee appointed Shantaram Naik as the president of its Goa unit. Naik promptly said the Congress would strive to “restore democracy” in Goa. Though the Congress leaders did not say it on the record, their subtle appeals to the conscience of the BJP allies betrayed their intent. But the presidential poll where the NDA nominee received some votes from the opposition and developments in Bihar seem to have pushed the allies further towards the BJP and beyond the Congress reach for now.

“The coalition government is working well now on the agenda of a common minimum programme, which the three parties have drafted. Earlier, there were apprehensions about the stability and survival of this government. But now, the allies are decidedly with the BJP as they see no other alternative and the Congress’s future in the state also looks bleak,” said Paresh Prabhu, Panaji-based political commentator and editor of local daily Navprabha. He said by adopting the common minimum programme, the BJP and its allies had moved beyond contentious issues, like their divergent positions on casinos in Goa.

Soon after the government was formed, the positions these three parties took during the election campaign on a host of issues returned to haunt them. For instance, MGP and GFP had both opposed casinos while the BJP manifesto was silent on this issue. Then, constituents of the larger Sangh Parivar like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal tried to put the Parrikar government under pressure by demanding a total beef ban. This prompted the GFP to demand action against the VHP and a ban on the entry of controversial VHP leaders.

But of late, there have been signs that the alliance constituents have made peace with each other. Last month, the GFP, MGP and independents maintained their solidarity with the BJP by voting for its Rajya Sabha nominee Vinay Tendulkar who defeated Congress’s Naik. Then, both GFP and MGP categorically stated that they had no intention to respond to the Congress’ efforts to topple the Parrikar government. Also, the GFP lent a big helping hand to the BJP by bringing Panaji politician Atanasio Monserrate into the GFP. The Congress was keen on fielding Monserrate against Parrikar in the Panaji by-poll later this month. Now, Monserrate will work for Parrikar. Virtually speaking the language of the BJP, GFP minister Vijay Sardesai mocked the Congress in the assembly last week when he said “the GFP had no intention to break the Congress further”.

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