GOA: The current situation witnessed by Bharatiya Janata Party in Goa at the backdrop of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s battle with cancer, is a resul of the inorganic growth that the party witnessed since the year 1994, when it entered State Legislative Assembly for the first time.
The growth of Parrikar has been parallel to BJP and now with their leader bed-ridden for last nine months, the party is witnessing a serious crisis.
Former Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and State party president Vinay Tendulkar getting into a public spat over the issue of inducting two Congressmen in the party fold has indicated that the party without Parrikar is reduced to am indisciplined force in the State.
The story of BJP and Parrikar begins in the year 1989 when RSS began entrenching their roots in this coastal state with 27 per cent Christian population. Congress was ruling in the State while the regional party – Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party – was in the opposition.
Manohar Parrikar was then an active RSS pracharak of the North Goa district and played a major role during “Ram Janmabhoomi Movement” which saw swayamsevaks from Goa going to Ayodhya.
BJP’s foray in the State politics was marked with the emergence of leaders like Parrikar, Laxmikant Parsekar and the current Union AYUSH minister Shripad Naik and Narahari Haldankar, who for the first time got elected on the lotus Symbol. That was when BJP entered Goa’s political scene as a serious player.
“When Parrikar was contesting his first election in the year 1994 in the Panjim Assembly constituency, I had to go around and introduce him to the people. I used to tell people “meet Manohar, he is our boy,” recalls Subhash Velingkar, then RSS chief of Goa region.
The first postal address of Parrikar was “care of” Subash Velingkar as he was himself living in Mapusa town, 10 kms away from Panjim
Velingkar who is currently an arch rival of the ailing chief minister fondly remembers their first elections, when BJP was introduced to the electorate. “We contested elections by spending merely Rs 26,000 and Manohar got elected. Our rival spent Rs 50 lakh, but still he was defeated,” said Velingkar, who still considers Parrikar as his friend.
The former RSS chief’s differences with Parrikar began when the latter failed to keep up the promise of withdrawing grants to schools which had English as a medium of instruction, insisting that grants should be given only to schools which had Marathi and Konkani as the medium of instruction.
The BJP’s maiden entry in assembly was with four MLAs but Parrikar went to become Leader of Opposition in the year 1999 and chief minister in the year 2000 when he broke a faction of Congress.
He was paid with the same coin by his own legislators in the year 2005 when four of them resigned to join Congress. But by that time, Parrikar had become a name to reckon with.
Parrikar’s ultimate victory was during 2012 election when he defeated Congress government and gave his party majority on the floor of the House. The party became 21 member strong in a 40 member House.
“We have seen the growth of the party from scratch. We were being termed as Bhaji Pala party ,” said Parsekar who has been with BJP since its inception in Goa.
Parsekar who is currently upset over his own party for inducting his political rival admits that Parrikar was a major force for growth of the party.
“Parrikar was a major reason for the growth of the party and he was also a reason behind defeat of the party in the year 2017 when we were reduced in the House. It was Parrikar who had selected candidates,” said Parsekar, who, despite being incumbent chief minister was defeated in 2017 election.
While Parrikar has been credited for growth of the party, parallel to his elevation in politics, the political observers like Rajendra Desai, a senior journalist, held him responsible for the current situation of BJP in Goa as they don’t have a credible face, if Parrikar steps down.
“BJP was the cadre based party and had ideology till 1999. When Shripad Naik was defeated in Assembly election and Parrikar became the party’s biggest leader, he taught party all the short cuts to gain power,” said Desai, Editor with Marathi Newspaper Dainik Herald.
BJP never saw organic growth under the leadership of Parrikar, said Desai recalling how he went on taking leaders from other parties to form the government.
“What we see today is that BJP is scouting for leaders. They never thought of a situation when Parrikar might have to step down,” he said.
Desai said that the party always remained as the ‘Parrikar Janata Party’ and all other leaders who lost elections or fell out of favour disappeared.
“BJP had several credible leaders who could rub shoulders with Parrikar. But where are they now?,” he questioned.
Desai feels that the BJP will have to reorganize itself if Parrikar steps down.
BJP leader and former State Assembly Speaker Rajendra Arlekar admits that Parrikar’s contribution to the party in Goa is significant. “The party grew in Goa and he contributed because of his capacity, calibre and performance,” Arlekar commented.
But he refused that the growth of the party in Goa was entirely because of Parrikar. “What we consider is that we have grown in Goa because of our party, not just because of Manohar Parrikar,” he said.
The former Speaker, who was amongst the first BJP MLAs, said that Parrikar stepping down might result in a vacuum but for some time. “There will be a vacuum, if he steps down. But that would exist for certain time. Someone else will take over and the party will continue growing,” he said.
But for now, a party built around a personality, is absolutely rudderless, with no second line of leadership, which sadly has been trampled under the might of a solitary leader.