It’s a bitter-sweet backdrop to the penning of this piece….A salutary electoral outcome in the annals of Goa; soured by the tragic passing of a Cabinet Minister, a veritable public figure and crusader, imbued with dynamism and exuding rectitude; and punctuated by a lustrous budget, which proffers a path-breaking roadmap to robust, inclusive and sustainable growth and development of the State, going forward. The irony of the tale is that, the latter exercise has made populist headlines, even as the landmark ‘game-changing’ event, which fructified it, has gone, virtually nondescript.
The National Media, agog with the stellar verdict in behemoth UP, has had little time if any, to dwell on the tectonic outcome at the hustings, in miniature Goa, leave alone dissect it, for meaningful pointers to the national narrative. A prominent English Weekly, known for its perfunctorily incisive and insightful political coverage, in review of the Five States that went to polls, could only muster a single line of ode in favour of what transpired; a cutting-edge Private News Network, went even further in its exhibition of flippancy, by dishing out an Opinion-Poll, that projected for 46 Seats, in an Assembly of 40…One could be forgiven, for being left wondering, where this newest delimitation endeavour, came from.
Murky World of Goan Politics
Indian Politics has traversed and metamorphosed a lot, since Independence. If upwards of 80% of incumbent Governments were voted back to Power, during the early decades, the ratio has inversed, particularly, during the past decade and more, wherein non-performing and staid regimes get routinely thrown-out, even as those progressive dispensations, that deliver sound administration and good governance, swaddled in street-smart politics, get returned to Office, more so, than ever before. But while Change is a pervasive and persistent Constant in Life, Goa has seemed to trudge a distinct furrow; oblivious, even impervious to the pining need for Change, inviting quizzical looks from the extant, on how a highly literate State, could betray itself in voting predilections, only to lament and carp, thereupon.
For the best part of the past two decades and more, Goa, has become a Poster-Boy for all that could be wrong and rotten, in Governance and Polity. If politics in the Hindi-Heartland, delivered the coinage of ‘Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram,’ then Goa, gave the phrase, its fullest expression. Even the endemic political instability and machiavellian cloak-and-dagger politics of cliques and cabal, so infamous in the North-East, paled in significance to the shenanigans in Goa, where Governments and Chief Ministers, could flip on a dime. No fewer than thirteen Chief Ministers in eleven years, including three involved in an eight day merry-go-round, in the middle of the nineties, followed by an unceremonious dumping of the gubernatorial occupant, made for a spectacle, which was as anguishing as amusing, for any self-respecting Goan.
Even the NDA Government’s bolstering amendments to the Representation of Peoples’ Act and the Anti-Defection Law, failed to deter or dampen spirits, as unprincipled and opportunistic bye-elections for serial party-hoppers, became run-of-the-mill. The casualty of all of this, has been on Administration and Governance, where the empirical record, particularly over the past five years, has been one of a near-complete collapse, some might make the averment to an abject absence of it. The stench of corruption, nepotism and flagrant abuse of power ran as deep, as the mining excesses and garbage woes that flowed over, capped-off by a State on the cusp of fiscal perdition, presided over by a dispensation with glaring apathy towards a pervasively discontent Civil Society.
Assembly Election 2012 – Tidal Wave
All of this pointed to a ‘tipping-point’ of sorts, in Assembly Election 2012…An Election of existential proportions beckoned for the State’s electorate; a proverbial last chance at redemption. And how well, they responded to this calling, by delivering an emphatic outcome. For only the third time in the past thirty-odd years, had a Single-Party won an Absolute-Majority; a near two-thirds Mandate, for the victorious Pre-Poll Alliance; the vanquished incumbents, reduced to single-digits. What’s more, for anyone entitled to a ringside view of events on polling day, it was a heartening and refreshing revelation.
At a time when the debate over modest voting percentages is nationally rife, Goa posted its unprecedented high, in excess of a staggering 82%. Voters, young and old, seasoned pros and apprentices, of all communities and all sections, queued-up and teemed at polling stations, up and early, with the enthusiasm and verve, normally attributable to turning-in through the turnstiles at a Marquee Cricket Fixture, or clambering over to make it to a Friday Blockbuster Release, but all in the cause of affirming the Power of Democracy, no less momentous.
This was one election, where the choices posited, were as stark as they get…despite the presence of multiple local and even extra-territorial regional outfits (the Trinamool Congress for instance), attempting to hold the balance of power in a prospective Assembly configuration, or for that matter, harbouring thoughts of just playing truant, this exercise at the hustings was pretty much about the binary opposites, viz., the two Principal National Parties. And when the incumbent is discredited, it makes a credible alternative in the opposition, that much more compelling. Notwithstanding, this was also an election, which seemed ordained for the Treasury Benches to do no right, and their juxtaposing numbers, to do no wrong.
The ruling Congress, fed on a staple of imperial hubris and insouciance, had the swagger, typical of anyone who self-deludes, that everything pays and anything goes in the State’s politics, much like their gubernatorial shenanigans of early 2005, which dislodged the 51 month Parrikar-led BJP Government. It was this blinding superciliousness, which spurred them on to germinate ‘Family Rule’ and scale it up to a most noxious level, with the design to amicably carve-up Goa’s landscape amongst themselves, akin to the European Colonial Project of hiving Africa in the late 19th Century. When the imagery in the public domain gets visceral, the optics often get so repugnant to palate, that the pushback is invariably ferocious and unforgiving; inducements and blandishments, un-mitigating. Despite the dint of the odd clan surviving the culling, the Congress’s plans at foisting privileged family-coteries upon the populace had been torn asunder, and ended-up in its own laceration, from power.
Modern-day politics is as much, about the personalities in the fray, as it is, about the parties, doing battle. Leadership isn’t about being in Office alone, but more so, about being in Power—being your Own Man, doing it with conviction, commanding adulation and respect. Mr. Parrikar, at the helm of the BJP in Goa, exudes a surfeit of this. How else then, can one describe a Man, who does not mind putting his government on the line, in favour of upholding the integrity and sanctity of his Cabinet? If professional excellence is often a function of skills-sets melding with temperament, then, in politics and public life, it’s the blend of integrity and intellect, which can carry you far. And being a congruent embodiment of them both, Mr. Parrikar has stridden the State’s landscape like a colossus, making rapid strides, since his maiden entry into the Assembly in 1994.
As Chief Minister, he turned progenitor and forerunning exponent of the ideational philosophy that elections could be won on Good Governance, prior to Mr. Modi patenting it. There was a time in the recent past when his name was bandied around for the BJP’s top-job, only for it to abate, as he made his fetish for home-turf, clear, to one and all. Not having enough of him, the incumbent Party President requested him to head the Party’s Good Governance Cell, with a mandate to mentor and showcase Best Innovative Practices in Good Governance. ‘Yours Truly’ recalls hearing from Sushmaji, years back, how this, then first-timer MLA, was so clairvoyantly studied on the dynamics and intricacies of State ‘Power’ Reforms. Years later, one finds her waxing eloquent and lyrical about Mr. Parrikar’s dynamism that has seen him rank as one of the rare Chief Ministers of the Union, adept at mobilizing resources for infrastructural development, without being a mendicant-friar before Delhi.
In the lead-up to Elections, he spearheaded the Party’s Jan-Sampark Abhiyan aimed at mass-contact and popular-mobilization; however, no sooner had it commenced, it was evident to one and all, that this was preaching to the converted. As his inspirational persona and charisma, waltzed on tongues, the electoral outcome, came across, a no-brainer.
His 51 months essay as Chief Minister during 2000-2005, had ushered in a ‘Golden Era’ in the annals of the State, replete with fiscal prudence, a largely corruption-free administration, robust infrastructural development, and overarching communal harmony and social amity, such that, people have been nostalgic for seven years since. However, this said, it wasn’t going to suffice in tracing the path to another stint as Chief Minister. Otherwise, he should have returned in 2007, when it was propitious for him to ride the crest of a surging sympathy wave, emanating out of his immoral and illegitimate ouster from Office, two years earlier. But while the Governance was an open and shut case, the Politics remained warped. The significant Christian population (approx. 30% of the State’s demography), remained apprehensive and wary, consequently, out of bounds, electorally. Furthermore, the potential for an alliance with the principal regional party, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which had ruled the State, almost uninterrupted, for the first two decades after Liberation, and which offered a natural fit in ideological terms, also remained fraught.
Outreach and Social Engineering
That was 2007…This was 2012, and the fix on both these issues, had to be found. The BJP engaged in a candid and constructive dialogue with the Christian community, allaying their apprehensions and misgivings and impressing the imperative to transcend the sectarian fault-lines in preserving Goa’s uniqueness and mystique, from predatory forces. The fielding of viable Christian candidates (no less than six of them on party tickets and backing three other independents), was a positive signal, responded to and reciprocated effusively by the minorities, which saw the Congress’s copybook script of fear-mongering and instilling alarm about the BJP, desiccated from them.
The victory of eight of the BJP’s nine Nominees, was as much instructive, as it was impressive, so much so, that the echelon national leadership of the BJP felt impelled to declare the case for extrapolating this form of social-engineering, although, one ought to reserve judgement on the efficaciousness of transposing situations, in a heterogeneous and eclectic nation like ours. In his time, Mr. Parrikar has constructed many-a-bridges. He has pronounced definitive intentions to build many more in this tenure. But akin to batters who covet centuries notched-up in winning odysseys, Mr. Parrikar would arguably treasure the bonds and bridge built with the Minorities that has formed a core underpinning to his edifice of success.
Electoral contests, in its essence, boils down to arithmetic and purely distilled numbers. And here’s where the consummation of the BJP-MGP alliance turned out a ‘game-changer.’ In much the same way as the Russian Federation emerged a pale shadow of its former self, the erstwhile Soviet Union, the MGP, has atrophied into being a pale shadow of its preponderant Self, in the early decades, after Liberation. Yet, all said and done, even in its shrivelled state, it retains the potential to scuttle and scupper a frontrunner’s chances. Had they bonded together five years earlier, the BJP would have been ensconced in power. What unfolded, was the BJP out of power, but the MGP at the coattails of a ruling Congress-led coalition. Alliances are forged with arithmetic in mind; if they play-out seamlessly, they could yield exponential dividends, a hypothesis so true in this electoral exercise. It’s a gentle reminder to the BJP to get its act together and assiduously embark on broadening the NDA tent, if a serious pitch to National Power in 2014 is to be made.
Role of NGO’s
It’s one thing, for the issues to exist and ruminate in the public domain, but another, for them to be showcased and flagged in a manner that the message is purveyed and it resonates efficaciously, with the electorate. And that’s where the role of NGOs like Friends of Good Governance (FOGG) has been incandescent, in making the persuasive pitch for the ‘Change-We-Can-Believe-In’ (to co-opt Obama-Campaign phraseology). And unlike political parties, who invariably plough a political furrow, the likes of FOGG, with no axe to grind, excepting, educating and sensitizing voters to appreciate the epochal nature of this Election, the intrinsic Power of the Vote, and an impassioned plea to make Good Governance and Credible Leadership the consideration for voting preference, came across, as a refreshing whiff of fresh air, harnessing all possible forms of mass-medium, be it the conventionality of Billboard Hoardings, or the creativity of Caricature Advertisements in Local Dailies, or for that matter, availing Social Media, in the form of Facebook and Twitter, particularly popular with the younger genre, to the hilt.
Parrikar’s Road Ahead
Through the election campaign, Mr. Parrikar, though now much mellowed in comparison to his hitherto abrasive mannerisms of the past, exemplified a terrier, desperate to break-out of its leash; passionate about fructifying the Goa, of peoples’ dreams. And he can take comfort, in that, he need not look over his shoulder for destabilizing plots, like he endured, when he confronted a corrupt cabinet colleague back in 2005, only to endanger his government. Notwithstanding, resounding mandates are concomitant with heady-expectations, often unrealistic, but yet, having to be managed. ‘Change’ may be a silver-bullet; ‘Transformation,’ is hardly a spigot, to be turned, on and off.
The challenge will be to keep the new Government, true to form and scrupulous—in the Goan template. With as many as eighteen first-time MLAs, freshness is bound to radiate, but apprenticeship or inexperience, will hardly serve as an alibi. ‘Performance’ was canvassed, as the yardstick….It’s got to be the measuring-rod, whilst in Power. The ruled-out Congress Party is quite clearly smarting from a bruising defeat. However, it does not seem to have been rankled, as yet, witnessed in its churlish and puerile insinuations at the EVMs betraying them or entering into mutual recriminations. Having self-inflicted and self-destructed, they could do with some soul-searching and going back to the drawing-board, even as they twiddle their thumbs in contemplating whether this would be a sabbatical, a hiatus or an excruciating exile.
Image Courtesy- Goan Observer