The late CM was one of Goa’s most popular politicians in decades and was widely admired.
The demise of Goa chief minister and former defence minister Manohar Parrikar, whose year-long battle with pancreatic cancer ended Sunday, cast a gloom on the state and within the BJP, but the party’s top leaders negotiated hard with allies to reach an agreement to name Assembly Speaker Pramod Sawant as the next CM even before the cremation rituals were completed.
The late CM was one of Goa’s most popular politicians in decades and was widely admired. This was partly due to his work ethic, but chiefly because he reached out to the state’s Catholic community as well as Muslim minority — unusual for a man raised in the RSS’ ideological stream from his schooldays. It’s to be seen if the Parrikar spirit relating to the minorities will be carried forward. The BJP’s long-term political health in the state may depend on this. In Mr Parrikar’s passing, Goa lost an energetic moderniser and the BJP its fulcrum.
The four-time former CM was adept at forming coalition governments and inducing defections, which the RSS-BJP widely practice. As regional parties and Independents found it easier to do business with Mr Parrikar than others in the BJP, a coalition led by him was easier to form.
In 2017, when the BJP lost the election and came second to the Congress in a hung Assembly, in a shock move the governor invited the saffron party to form the government. But its future regional allies insisted they would join a post-poll coalition with the BJP only if Mr Parrikar led it.
He thus had to quit as defence minister and return to Panaji to be CM. The claim of the Congress, the largest party in the Assembly, was overlooked. The same has transpired now. The BJP’s regional allies, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Goa Forward Party, extracted a deputy CM each before letting Mr Sawant become Mr Parrikar’s successor. Earlier, each party was bargaining for the CM’s slot.
Sensing the likely change even before Mr Parrikar’s demise was announced, the Congress sought an appointment with the governor to press its own claim to form the government as the ruling combine had lost its majority. But governor Mridula Sinha, whose constitutional conduct will be deemed less than sturdy, simply ignored the demand.
The present coalition arrangement in the state continues for the time being. The only point to consider for now is how farsighted the incoming CM would turn out to be in coping with coalition stresses, and in dealing with the minorities. Since the Lok Sabha polls and some byelections to the state Assembly are just weeks away, Mr Sawant’s leadership will be immediately tested. Wins will propel him forward, and losses might raise a question mark.