For the Bharatiya Janata Party Goa Pradesh, the upcoming state elections will provide quite the existential reality check. Since it arrived in the electoral arena of Goa, this will be the first time that the party will be missing its talisman and master strategist, former Chief Minister and Defence Minister late Manohar Parrikar.
It was under his leadership that the BJP went from zero seats and 1.21 percent of the votes in 1984 to 21 seats and 34.68 percent of the votes in 2012.
The saffron-tinted IIT-ian had ensured that despite significant Catholic votes, the BJP was acceptable, and a force to reckon with in Goa. His death, however, changed it all.
Parrikar was a larger-than-life entity in Goan politics. He would pick and choose his team – from new-age Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) loyalists to committed minority leaders such as late Francis deSouza, and Michael Lobo, while keeping the RSS hardliners such as Union Minister Sripad Naik, former CM Laxmikant Parsekar, and Himachal Pradesh Governor Rajendra Arlekar on a long leash.
His departure has thrown open the BJP into three distinct camps – the power broker troika of BJP Goa Organisation General Secretary Satish Dhond, CM Dr Pramod Sawant and BJP Goa President Sadanand Shet Tanavade; the Parrikar Camp; and the imported ones from Congress and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), who could take the first train when the power equilibrium changes in the state.
Parrikar’s son Utpal’s entry is about that uneasy balance of power.
The Un-Parrikar-like BJP
In the power tussle within the BJP between the traditional loyalists and the next-gen-whatever-it-takes-to-be-in-power BJP, former Goa CM Laxmikant Parsekar revealed that the party is in the hands, rather at the mercy of, Dhond. Parsekar, who lost the last polls, fielded two independent Zila Parishad candidates that won against official BJP candidates who had been bypassed in favour of INC-party-hopper Dayanand Sopte. Parsekar has since resigned and will be contesting as an independent – a grouse that reflects in Parrikar’s son Utpal’s bold manoeuvres.
Utpal in his first freewheeling interview after quitting his father’s party where he also was a member of the state executive revealed that this wasn’t the party that his father built.
The Parrikar scion has no grouse against the BJP at the Centre but more with the way a cabal is running the party in the state. Accusing the party leadership of fielding a criminally tainted Babush Monserrate from Panaji, Utpal has gone all guns blazing at the way BJP has shifted from honouring its karyakartas and homegrown leaders to winnable ‘imports’ from other parties.
Both Monserrate and wife Jennifer, who is the outgoing Revenue Minister and MLA from neighbouring Taleigao, are prime accused in the Panaji police station attack case. Both won against BJP candidates in the 2017 polls but joined BJP from Congress en masse in 2019. The two quickly dismantled the traditional BJP supporter-based mandals in these two constituencies and infused it with their people. As the traditional BJP karyakarta cried foul, the party leadership looked the other way.
BJP 2.0 vs BJP 3.0
In Goa, BJP 1.0 was the beginning of the BJP when it arrived. It usurped the MGP vote base, broke the INC majority and came to power. BJP 2.0 was Manohar Parrikar’s second coming to power and return from the wilderness in 2012, while BJP 3.0 is post-Parrikar where the troika is doing the same thing which Parrikar did in BJP 1.0 – break away strong winnable candidates from other political parties and replace their own with them.
Only one difference though. Parrikar ensured that there was complete cadre control, and the new entrant and supporters would be amalgamated with the existing party workers, something that BJP 3.0 has failed to do.
Since 2016, Goa’s BJP unit has been fighting a war within. First, there was the unprecedented RSS revolt that almost created a schism within – where the hardliner idealogue and the power brokers were divided. A ghar wapsi (homecoming) of sorts may have ensured that the party cadres remained battle-ready in 2017 but the anti-incumbency mandate of 2017 left the BJP on a backfoot.
Despite the Congress emerging as the single largest party, the BJP retained power in Goa in 2017, and the midterm mass poaching of Congress MLAs had ensured that the party doubled its seats in the Assembly.
The new scheme of things, however, has further vitiated the internal atmosphere within the once disciplined BJP. There are the traditionalists, the power brokers, the new entrants, and the Parrikar loyalists. From Pernem to Canacona, across 40 Assembly seats, Manohar Parrikar was paraded in 2012 (a la-Nehru style) and his wave was created.
Utpal’s resignation threatens to wake those BJP loyalists up who could vote en masse against the party.
Does a Parrikar Legacy Even Exist…or Is It a Chimera Forgotten?
BJP 1.0 was built by the troika of Legislature Party leader Manohar Parrikar handling the politics, the then BJP President Sripad Naik who built disciplined cadres from the common folks, while RSS Chief Subhash Velingkar ensured adherence to ideology.
Parrikar’s legacy was more to ensure that BJP remained in power by a cleverly crafted system of dividing the Opposition and appeasing fence-sitters such as the MGP, GFP, and the independents. The import of a dozen Congress MLAs over the past half a decade has all the makings of a Parrikar legacy.
Here lies the difference. Junior Parrikar was denied the ticket once championed by his father, unlike Mapusa MLA Joshua de Souza who inherited his father Francis deSouza’s seat because the incumbent was stronger than any opposition. There always was an uneasy, hidden understanding between Monserrate and Parrikar that ensured the former kept the City Corporation and the latter, the Assembly seat.
The death of Parrikar meant that Monserrate got both – the City Corporation and the Assembly seat. Something that BJP cadres in Panaji and Taleigao aren’t comfortable with. The Monserrates are a millstone around the BJP’s neck that they cannot do away with.
(Ajay Thakur is a multimedia journalist who writes for PixStory and has reported for STAR News, BBC, the Times Of India, The Goan and O Heraldo, among other publications. He tweets at @EagleEyeAT. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)