But the smaller parties to have supported the BJP have extracted their pound of flesh in the form of plum cabinet posts
By Sujit Bhar
Manohar Parrikar won the floor test with 22 MLAs paraded on March 16 and is now the legitimate chief minister of Goa. The Congress, for all practical purposes, sat dejected, having virtually given up hope.
This is the age of expecting the unexpected and then getting it. Parrikar headed a BJP jamboree to 13 seats in the recent assembly elections, while the Congress was the largest party on show with 17 in the 40-seat assembly.
It was natural and expected that the governor would call the Congress first to form government. It was also expected that it would be a cakewalk for the Congress to seek out four more MLAs to support them and take then to the magic figure of 21.
The unexpected happened, both times. Governor Mridula Sinha returned the call of Parrikar and BJP, while waiting for the Congress to show up, quickly installed the former defence minister as the chief minister. She seemingly was satisfied with the BJP’s claim to strength.
Technically the Congress was to blame. It failed to even present its case to governor. In the heated atmosphere of Goa, and with 131 years of rigorous political experience to fall back on, the Congress sat on its hands. The BJP did not. By nightfall on March 11 (the day election results were announced), it has sewn up alliances that would see them through any test.
It was not clear what the Congress was doing, but the rumour is that it was trying to settle internal disputes as to who would be the boss. Digvijay Singh, Congress’ boss-man responsible for Goa, was totally lost. Now he has to listen to a sarcastic jab from Parrikar, who commented after the floor test: “That’s what happens if you come to Goa for a holiday.”
The Congress had huffed and puffed its way to the Supreme Court on the issue of the governor calling Parrikar and neglecting Congress. The Supreme Court is on vacation, but considering the seriousness of the issue, Chief Justice JS Khehar quickly formed a three-judge bench and heard out Congress counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
Singhvi had later said sarcastically: “Let Parrikar be a do-din ka Sultan if he wants to be.” Actually, the joke was on Singhvi and the Congress. The Supreme Court had openly rebuked the Congress, with Justice Khehar saying: “You saw them saying they have the majority. But you never said you have the majority nor have you mentioned in this petition. You have not brought the affidavits of these people who are with you. You failed to show that the people who are mentioned in their list are with you.”
The court added: “If you had the numbers, you would have held a dharna at the Governor’s house.”
When Singhvi cried “It’s constitutionally and legally wrong,” Justice Gogoi gave him a lesson in realpolitik. : “Healthy constitutional practice should be followed, not the just the convention of calling the largest party.”
The body language of the Congress on the morning of March 16 was one of despondency. They seemed to have given up trying. It was soon clear that the smaller parties to have supported the BJP—three independents, the Goa Forward Party (GFP, 3) and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP, 3)—have extracted their pound of flesh in the form of plum cabinet posts.
The problem was that Parrikar is a local man, a former high-powered cabinet minister and close to Prime Minster Narendra Modi. What chance did the Congress—whose leader Rahul Gandhi himself is in the dock for huge losses—have against such an opponent?
The bigger problem for the Congress will be the new legislators who are frustrated and have said so. Will the flock stay with leaders who live in Delhi? Congress’ demand for the pro-tem speaker’s post also failed to cut ice.