To dissolve the assembly or not, that is the question for the Goa BJP
Panaji: The death of former Deputy Chief Minister and incumbent BJP MLA Francis D'Souza and the continuing ill-health of two BJP MLAs, including Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, queered the legislative arithmetic for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and rekindled the debate on the assembly's dissolution.
These factors, combined with fears of a backlash in the upcoming bypolls in two assembly constituencies, Shiroda and Mandrem, rendered vacant last year following the resignations of sitting Congress MLAs -- who later joined the BJP -- have added to the anxieties in the BJP camp.
The party seems to be grappling to comprehend an era beyond Parrikar, who is fighting advanced pancreatic cancer.
With the death of D'Souza -- who was also suffering from cancer -- on February 14, the legislative strength of the BJP is now at 13 MLAs, one short of the single largest party Congress.
This would become significant if any of the nine alliance MLAs (three each from Goa Forward and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and three independents), make good their repeated threats, both subtle and direct, of swapping ranks and attempt to topple the government.
For now, the ruling coalition members appear to be putting together a collective face, saying dissolution of the state assembly was only a media fantasy and that it was an unreal scenario as none of the legislators were keen on a mid-term poll, considering the political fluidity and the perceived backlash from the electorate.
"Dissolution? Somehow you are the media which is writing on this. I read an edit. It was creating a deja vu on dissolution. Look at the political reality at the moment. How many people can afford dissolution," Agriculture Minister Vijai Sardesai asked while speaking to IANS.
Panchayat Minister Mauvin Godinho said that at a cabinet meeting chaired by Parrikar on Monday (Feb 19), dissolution of the assembly was not even discussed.
The Congress, the main opposition party in Goa, however sees the political scenario differently.
"This government never had the mandate to rule. This is an illegitimate government. The Governor has to dissolve the assembly and go for mid-term polls," state Congress president Girish Chodankar said.
BJP sources said the party continues to be divided on the issue of dissolution. The choice for the party is to try to either ride the "positive wave" triggered by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led highly persuasive election machinery or sit pretty with the current legislative dispensation.
"The party cadre is facing a severe crisis in terms of morale in view of Parrikar's illness as well as the constant infighting between allies, whose demands are unending The inability to resolve the mining crisis also means that we may face a setback in the mining belt," a senior BJP leader said on condition of anonymity.
Mining was banned by the Supreme Court last February and repeated assurances by the BJP's central and state leadership that efforts would be made to resolve the crisis have failed to fructify.
Another BJP leader said that riding piggyback on the Modi wave could be the best way out of the crisis, especially if Parrikar's health further deteriorates.??"Currently, there is an air of uncertainty about what is going to happen. But if Parrikar is unable to guide us in the near future, there will be chaos. The best way out of the situation is to hold mid-term polls along with the Lok Sabha elections," the BJP leader said.
The BJP has already initiated damage control, by bringing in its key troubleshooter, Satish Dhond, as an organising secretary, a key post in any BJP organisation, entrusted with the responsibility of acting as a bridge between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP, as well as to bring order to the party rank and file.
But even this move has been unable to tide over tenuous matters like the rebellion of former Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, who has vowed to defeat Dayanand Sopte, who joined the BJP last year after quitting as a Congress MLA and is likely to contest the bypoll in Mandrem, which Parsekar has traditionally represented.
Attacks on the BJP leadership by the party's own MLAs, like Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo and Power Minister Nilesh Cabral over poor governance have also worsened matters in recent times.