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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Goa: A history of political volatility, defections and shifting alignments

Along with the traditional contenders such as the BJP, Congress, MGP and GFP, a slew of other parties including the TMC, AAP and the indigenous Revolutionary Goans have entered the fray, setting the stage for a fierce electoral battle in Goa.

Written by MAYURA JANWALKAR | Panaji |
Updated: January 20, 2022 2:07:53 pm
Congress veteran Pratap Singh Rane and late BJP leader Manohar Parrikar (R). (Photo: Facebook/Express Archive)

India’s smallest state Goa was liberated from the Portuguese rule in 1961. Its colonial past differs from the rest of India and so does its unique identity and political environment. Goa transitioned from a Union Territory (UT) to become a full state in 1987. With the last six decades of its electoral history marked by volatility and defections, the people of Goa seem to have grown as accustomed to political instability and uncertainty as they have been to tourists on rented two-wheelers on the streets of the coastal state. Its politics has been defined by precarious governments, varying spells of President’s rule, alternating dispensations, and shifting alignments and re-alignments. Goa has already had 16 Chief Ministers, with many doing two or more stints and some holding the office for barely a month or even less.

Liberation and early years

The ‘Operation Vijay’, the two-day tri-service military operation, led to Goa’s liberation on December 19, 1961, bringing the Portuguese rule of about 450 years in the territory to an end. Major General K P Candeth was appointed Goa’s first military governor tasked with restoring normalcy in the newly-liberated territory. Six months later, the central government under then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru brought in the civil administration appointing Lieutenant Tumkur Shivshankar as the first Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Goa. Ahead of the Assembly elections, Panchayat elections were held in Goa in 1962. In December 1963, its second LG Mulk Raj Sachdev administered the oath of office to the first government of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu under its first Chief Minister and the Maharashrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) founder, Dayanand Bandodkar, known as Bhausaheb Bandodkar.

PM Narendra Modi at the martyrs’ memorial in Goa. (Twitter)

From 1963 to 1987, there were 30 seats in the then Legislative Assembly of the UT of Goa, Daman and Diu. The 1963-73 decade belonged to Bandodkar and the MGP, with the Opposition being the United Goans Party (UGP) under the leadership of Dr Jack Sequiera. Bandodkar was known for his contribution to the cause of upliftment of Goa’s downtrodden and Bahujan Samaj.

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Although Bandodkar’s MGP was in favour of Goa’s merger with the neighbouring Maharashtra, in the ‘opinion poll’ held in 1967 the people of Goa, especially from South Goa’s Salcette taluka, had voted against the merger. Sequeira was among the leaders who had staunchly pitched for a separate identity for Goa. However, Bandodkar’s acceptance of the people’s verdict ensured that he was voted back to power in the 1967 election as the MGP got a majority. In 1972, he became the CM for the third time. However, he died while still in office in August 1973 at the age of 62.

After his sudden demise, his daughter Shashikala Kakodkar took over the reins, becoming Goa’s only woman CM so far, and continued in her post until 1979. It was during her tenure that the proposal for statehood for Goa was mooted.

The Congress’s emergence

In 1979, the Kakodkar government collapsed. President’s rule was imposed in Goa. In January, 1980, the then Congress (U) merged with the Congress (I) with Pratapsingh Rane switching from the MGP to the Congress to become its first CM. The 80s was the decade with Rane at the helm of Goa. Under his chief ministership, the state transport undertaking, Kadamba Transport Corporation, was created and Goa University was set up in 1985. In 1983, the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) was held in Goa for two days. The CHOGM was a marquee event hosted by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that put Goa on the world map. A road still goes by the name of Chogm Road in North Goa’s Porvorim that connects it to the coastal belt up to Calangute.

In 1986, Goa witnessed a major agitation, violent in parts, for making Konkani an official language. Konkani, which was until then categorised as a dialect of Marathi and later as a written language, was accorded the status of an official language of India on February 4, 1987. The activists and politicians who launched the Konkani language agitation also paved the way for the movement for statehood that Goa attained on May 30, 1987.

Pratapsing Rane (R) and his son Vishwajit Rane (L). (Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran/File)

During his third tenure as the CM, Rane’s government was toppled in early 1990 by a group of seven MLAs led by then Speaker Dr Luis Proto Barbosa, who formed the Goan People’s Party (GPP) after breaking away from the Congress following denial of ministerial berths. While Rane was away in Kolhapur, the Congress rebels cobbled up the majority number with the support of the MGP MLAs and an Independent, and staked claim to form the government. The GPP then also included Churchill Alemao (now in TMC) and Mauvin Godinho (a minister in the current BJP government).

Statehood and the tumultuous 90s

The first election for the 40-member state Assembly after Goa got statehood was held in 1989. This was also the first time that Goa saw a hung Assembly with the Congress and the MGP both winning 18 seats each and the remaining four going to Congress rebels who were equally split between the two major contenders. However, due to some discrepancies in filing of nominations in two constituencies the re-election was held there that was won by the Congress. The Progressive Democratic Front came into existence but lasted only from March to December, 1990. President’s rule was again imposed briefly until Ravi Naik became the CM. Naik had broken away from the MGP with seven legislators, who formed the Congress Democratic Alliance with outside support from the Congress (I). Subsequently, they joined the Congress (I) enabling it to form a government.

Significantly, the first Goa Assembly, in five years, saw seven CMs including Rane, Alemao (first Catholic CM of Goa who served for less than a month), Barbosa — and Naik and Wilfred D’souza, both of whom assumed the post twice.

The trend of precarious coalitions in Goa continued through the 90s. In 1994, the Congress returned to power with Rane as the CM again, with the help of defectors from the MGP and Independents. However, as defections continued, in July 1998, D’souza stepped up to run the Goa Rajiv Congress government. In November 1998, Luizinho Faleiro became the CM in a Congress-led coalition government, which lasted only until January, 1999 due to defections following which President’s rule was again imposed. In June, 1999, a Congress government returned to power with Faleiro as CM. He was succeeded by Francisco Sardinha as CM until October 2000.

Manohar Parrikar and BJP’s rise

In 2000, IIT engineer-turned-politician Manohar Parrikar became Goa CM by forming a BJP-led coalition government with the MGP. Parrikar was instrumental in getting the annual International Film Festival organised in Goa in what was a major branding exercise for the state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays homage to Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who passed away battling pancreatic ailment in 2019, in Panaji. (Express Archive)

In 2005, amid continuing defections the Congress came back to power with Rane again returning as the CM from March 28 to April 4, 2005. This was followed by President’s rule during which the Assembly was suspended until June, 2005. The bypolls were then held in five assembly seats following which the Congress came to power again with Rane as the CM. This tenure of the Rane government witnessed citizens’ movements in protest against the ‘draconian’ Regional Plan 2011. Several NGOs came together under the aegis of the Goa Bachao Abhiyan to oppose the plan that they said would be detrimental to Goa’s heritage. In 2007, the Rane government withdrew it. This was followed by large-scale agitations against 18 proposed SEZs in Goa. After the 2007 Assembly elections, a Congress-led coalition government led by Digambar Kamat, who was earlier with the BJP, came to power. This government also saw the sustained opposition to the diversion of the Mhadei river water to Karnataka.

In 2012 Assembly elections, however, Parrikar steered the BJP to a victory with full majority for the first time. He became the CM but resigned in November 2014 to join the Narendra Modi-led party government at the Centre as the country’s Defence Minister. Parrikar was succeeded by senior party leader Laxmikant Parsekar who served as the CM until the 2017 Assembly elections.

2017 polls and 2019 defections

With Parrikar leading the BJP’s campaign in the 2017 Goa Assembly polls, several leaders from various parties had switched to the BJP. The saffron party contested the polls on its own and won 13 seats. The Congress emerged as the single largest party with 17 seats, but was outmanoeuvred by the BJP that stitched up a coalition government by conceding Deputy CM posts to MGP leader Ramkrishna alias Sudin Dhavalikar and Goa Forward Party (GFP) president Vijai Sardesai. As the BJP’s key strategist and negotiator, Parrikar had got both the regional parties and two Independent MLAs on board to form the government, returning to the state as the CM. However, what followed two years later came as a coup de grace for the Congress. Parrikar died in March 2019 after losing his battle with pancreatic cancer. The BJP picked Pramod Sawant, ex-Speaker and party loyalist with the RSS background, to succeed him.

In July 2019, ten MLAs from the Congress and two from the MGP defected to the BJP calling it a ‘merger’ of their legislative parties with the BJP. This gave the BJP full majority with 27 MLAs. While the new entrants were given ministerial berths, Sardesai, Dhavalikar and Independent MLA Rohan Khaunte were fired from the Sawant Cabinet, who, in turn, became the BJP’s bitter foes.

In the run-up to the upcoming Assembly polls, Sardesai has joined hands with the Congress and the MGP has allied with the new entrant Trinamool Congress, while Khaunte, taking a U-turn, joined the BJP. Along with the traditional contenders such as the BJP, Congress, MGP and GFP, a slew of other parties including the TMC, AAP and the indigenous Revolutionary Goans have entered the fray, setting the stage for a fierce electoral battle.

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