MORE than the BJP versus Congress, the audio tape alleging that Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar could blackmail the Centre on Rafale is playing out as BJP versus BJP in Goa. While the state police is yet to receive any order from Parrikar to initiate a probe into the audio tape, many senior BJP leaders The Indian Express spoke to admit the “damage has been done”.
Former Goa CM and state BJP core committee member Laxmikant Parsekar said these were “difficult and challenging times for the BJP” after the release of the tape. Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo avoided commenting on the tape but warned that the bickering within could hurt the party.
On Wednesday, an audio tape released by Congress revealed a conversation purportedly between Goa’s Health Minister Vishwajit Rane and an unidentified person, discussing the December 20 Goa cabinet meeting, including an alleged claim made by Parrikar that he has kept all Rafale files in his bedroom.
Rane said the tape was doctored and called it a “conspiracy of national interest” but many of his colleagues are more guarded.
Ahead of Lok Sabha elections, they said, they were worried about the party’s prospects. They spoke of a “fullstop in mining”, slow death of industry, rise in unemployment, and a bleeding tourism sector.
BJP spokesperson Nilesh Cabral (whose name finds mention in the tape) is the only one who commented on the tape. “I have asked the Chief Minister to give orders for a probe, involve CID or any specialised agency. This report has to be made public,” he said.
Admitting that “this (the tape) has made the situation a bit difficult” and caused “political damage”, Cabral said, “But we are always positive. Things will fall in place.”
A probe is yet to be ordered though. Said DGP Muktesh Chander: “We haven’t got anything.”
Parsekar, who has been demanding a reshuffle in the BJP’s state hierarchy, said the tape episode played out at a very “difficult time”. “It has definitely created confusion in the minds of people. These are challenging times for BJP,” he said. A divided Cabinet and an ailing chief Minister haven’t helped.
With several contenders for the CM post – a detail the tape reveals, the situation continues to be fluid in Goa.
PWD Minister Sudin Dhavalikar, leader of BJP’s ally Maharashtra Gomantak Party (MGP), figures in the tape. Rane purportedly refers to him saying his party MLAs were seeking project funds. Asked about the tape, Dhavalikar declined comment.
Instead, he said: “This year we have promised we have to go ahead with infrastructure projects and are aiming at getting tap water at least for seven hours across the state. There are other promises to keep too, and we must speak on that.”
Dhavalikar, who also projects himself as a CM contender, said the state was grappling with finances. “We have been directly hit due to the apex court order, mining is a full stop. The loss is Rs 4,000 crore and all other sectors are dependent on this money for development. Let me make this clear: no CM can work till the mining issue is resolved and the mines are reopened. Be it Rane, or Digambar Kamat (Congress) or any of us. We all have to collectively resolve this issue first,” he said.
Asked about the tussle for the CM’s job, he said he had asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the mining issue.
MGP was the first to challenge the decision of two MLAs who moved from Congress to the BJP at the High Court.
Govind Gaude, minister for tribal affairs, declined to comment on the tape but was quick to discuss his challenges. “Let me tell you, unemployment is rising. We are struggling. We are asking the Chief Minister to help. In my constituency, I have no single job allotted, as it’s not going on merit. We raised this issue several times at several platforms.”
While the speaker Pramod Sawant -whose name is mentioned in the tape, as a CM contender backed by RSS — was unreachable, Lobo said, the party is happy for now that Parrikar is back at the secretariat.
He, however, said the bickering only shows that “ministers are not behaving like ministers of the state, but ministers of the constituency. There is a need to have a long term vision and debates and discussion around it. Personally, I feel we have all failed the people of Goa. The opposition is not pushing the government and showing the policies which need to be prioritised, and the ruling MLAs in not implementing it. This season (tourism and hospitality) was bad,” said Lobo.