Manohar Parrikar, 63, passed away on Sunday 17th March after a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer. A technocrat-turned-politician, Manohar Parrikar rose from a pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to become the country’s Defence Minister in 2014. He also served the state of Goa four times as Chief Minister. Parrikar’s death has left Goa’s political space in a turmoil and the BJP in a fix. Here’s how.
He was BJP’s crisis man in Goa
Parrikar played a key role in making the BJP a force to reckon with in Goa, which had long been a Congress bastion. During the Congress era, Goa was under the tight influence of UPA’s fringe organisations, making it near impossible for the BJP to ever hold ground in the state. BJP was in a crisis situation in Goa and they needed a real strong man to bring them back to relevance in the state. And this man was Manohar Parrikar. In his first term as CM, Parrikar managed to overturn Congress’s influence in the state, and ensured his reelection as CM three more times.
It is because of Parrikar that Goa today is a BJP state.
But now Goa’s assembly has a political vacuum
Goa after Parrikar poses a math problem, at least for the BJP. The strength of Goa’s assembly is 36 (after the deaths of Parrikar on Sunday and BJP MLA Francis D’Souza last month), of which BJP has 11 seats, Congress 14 and local+independent candidates hold 9 seats.
Now, technically the BJP still has the majority since the local and independent candidates are a part of BJP’s coalition. So it goes without saying that Parrikar would simply be replaced by another BJP MLA. But the problem is that BJP’s allies (the independent seat holders) in the assembly were primarily due to Parrikar’s stature in Goa politics. Now, that Parrikar is no more, the allies are disinterested in backing the BJP. Which is why finding a BJP replacement will be challenging.
And here’s where the Congress comes into the picture. With the rift between BJP and its allies, the Congress is now the single largest party in the assembly, which is why they are staking claim at the CM’s seat after Parrikar. This complicates the power dynamics in Goa as BJP is scavenging to find a new CM before the Congress manages to convince BJP’s allies to side with it.
And the Governor has to come to the rescue
Last night, soon after the news of Parrikar’s death was announced, the BJP-led alliance in Goa met to decide on the next CM. But because of the rift between BJP and its allies, they could not reach a consensus.
The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) legislator Sudin Dhavalikar wanted to be the Chief Minister due to which the discussions came to a halt. The BJP obviously wants one of their ranks to be the next CM. This argument continued till later today, without any resolution.
The answer to what happens next, as usual, lies with governor. But given that the Lok Sabha elections are looming large, Governor Mridula Sinha will most likely recommend that the Assembly be suspended until after the polls.
But that doesn’t bode well for BJP
The power vacuum left by Manohar Parrikar’s death in Goa goes against BJP. Parrikar was the reason BJP had been reigning in Goa for so long. His influence had kept the coalition going and fringe organisations from taking over pockets of Goa. In the 2019 elections, Goa would have been a sure shot victory for the BJP, but now with Manohar Parrikar’s death, the bastion may go back to Congress.
And not just in Goa, but also even at the national scale, Parrikar did a lot to shape BJP’s image. He was the man behind India’s surgical strikes in 2016, which brought BJP to national pride. As defence minister, he also helped push the Rafale jets deal, that had been stalled for years during the Congress era.
So now Goa has a new CM
Amidst rifts and confusion within the assembly, Speaker Pramod Sawant was sworn in in the wee hours of the morning (2 am), to quickly squelch Congress’ hopes of ousting the BJP. The price of a BJP replacement: the tiny state now has two deputy CMs—the leaders of BJP’s two local allies, Goa Forward Party and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party. The BJP had to do something to pacify the independent allies who were threatening to switch over to Congress.
While Manhoar Parrikar’s death is a great loss to the people of Goa, it has also opened a pandora of political problems for the BJP until the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Want to know more about Parrikar’s hand in the Rafale Jets deal? Read our article about corruption in the defense sector.