Two weeks have passed since the monsoon session of the state Legislative Assembly commenced, but the visitors sitting in gallery and watching live on television are missing the spark of then opposition voices, Vijai Sardesai and Rohan Khaunte, who have shifted their base to ruling benches, and the only opposition party- Congress, still acting like the “new comers” in the state politics. Something that has kept the Assembly proceedings catchy is Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar who continued to impress the viewers with his “promises”…”deadlines”…” assurances”- for which he is been known for.
Willy-nilly, coming back to the prime opponents, the Congress, which still has some kind of national outlook and resonance, has lost its touch completely despite the very fact that the party has 16 MLAs including four former Chief Ministers, sitting by their side. But even then, the oldest national party legislators seem to lack the ‘maturity’ on the Floor of the House. Rather than being destructive/constructive opponents, the Congress MLAs are very ‘unproductive’.
The opposition was in no position to take advantage of whatever visible chinks were there in the BJP-led coalition government functioning, and the very reason for this was that the opposition themselves are not united. There is dissident-fraction within. And these people are carving to topple the government, for what? To safeguard the old profession of corruption or mere politics to grab power and rule like kings.
“Opposition has no issues to raise…they are not able to point out single fault of the government,” Parrikar had said after opposition MLAs staged walk-out over a petty issue of administrative circular by the government.
“We are mature and responsible opposition which must be given due credit and praise for meaningful functioning of the Assembly. We are raising people’s issues and not issues concerning individual MLAs,” was the defence of Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar speaking to TNV.
The day one of the ongoing monsoon session was the best example which showed how Congress is yet to be ‘matured’ enough when the legislators led by senior leaders disrupted the House proceedings for over two and half hours over an issue of government circular that restricted the government officials from attending the meetings at the residents or offices of the MLAs- both ruling as well as opposition.
The House was adjourned thrice by the Speaker, Dr Pramod Sawant, who left no stone unturned to convince the opposition members to have a detail discussion on the matter at the later stage. His orders were dishonoured by the members, who continued their childish act demanding that the circular be withdrawn immediately.
The reason for the anger was very clear that the MLAs don’t want to travel all the way to Panchayat halls or municipal halls or district administration offices. Their so called ‘Janta Darbar’ was all that they wanted to show their power to their voters.
Ridiculing its own Congress members and dealing with the issue and situation in a more mature and farsighted manner, former Chief Minister and senior most member of the House, Pratapsingh Rane, in a very emotional manner requested his colleagues to allow the House to function. It was a slap on the face of Congress MLAs, who, however, respected senior Rane’s say.
“I supported the demand of Congress party but I did not walk out with them. Their demand was right but the forum was wrong. The issue would have been discussed in a better way,” lone NCP legislator Churchill Alemao said, adding, “Congress needs to grow up”.
The MLA, once part of the Congress-led government, said it rightly. Congress needs to grow up at least now, when people of Goa have given them an opportunity to prove it. Having been elected on a wave of expectations, the Congress has failed to send any signals to its voters, not even in the field of political conduct or otherwise. The party does not have a game plan to seize the initiative and think differently.
For example, it disrupted and staged walk-out over the controversial Investment Promotion Board (IPB), which grants in-principle approvals for investments in the state. The Congress, terming the Board as major scam and fraud, demanded House Committee probe, but failed to ascertain the reason behind their demand.
Except for the alcohol and brewery industry proposed by M/s Vani Agro Pvt Ltd at Sanguem- the project which is now kept on hold- Congress failed to give any other case studies of the total 150 projects approved by the IPB- as a justification for their demand. And not to forget, it was Vijai Sardesai, now in ruling, who was the first to raise his voice against the red-industry project backed by Congress then.
“You point out one scam or reason for which I should go for House Committee probe,” Parrikar had told the opposition, to which they staged a walk-out.
The Congress may take pride in the fact that it has disrupted the proceedings of the House somewhat effectively, but whether it can force the government to rethink on any matter is a crucial test. Besides, whether an Assembly victory was won by voice power or the power of argument will, in the long run, determine if the Congress wants to do justice to procedural decorum or just make its presence felt.
The opposition plays an important role in providing practical criticism of the ruling party. It is also consulted when important appointments are made. Therefore, it is important for the opposition to have a leader who can represent the interests of the non-dominant party. A weaker opposition leader will weaken the opposition bench and will not be able to put up a unified front against the ruling party, and the same is in case of Congress here. The so called young Leader of Opposition, whose selection turned out to be sour for the party who slipped to form the government in the state even after emerging as single largest party- has nothing much to impress upon. Kavlekar, elected as MLA for the fourth consecutive term, has no spark of that of Leader of Opposition. Directionless, issueless Opposition leader has in fact no control over his legislators, and this is seen often during the ongoing House proceedings.
One does not find any difference between then Leader of Opposition Pratapsingh Rane and Kavlekar-both who lack leadership qualities. Kavlekar is not a challenge for Parrikar- a leader who enters the House after meticulous study of all the subjects as against our Leader of Opposition.
The Congress is not only weak, but also isolated. Take for example- all the four former Chief Ministers- Pratapsingh Rane, Luizinho Falerio, Ravi Naik and Digambar Kamat are seen cut-off from each other. While Rane preferred not to be a part of Congress protest in the House, Naik lacks issues and presentation while Kamat lacks support. On the other hand, Faleiro, who entered the house after over a decade, is still in his olden days, when the MLAs use to just make talks…talks…talks…to grab attention and make the presence felt. He failed to adopt himself to the latest tunes.
The only hope of the people- the young and dynamic MLA Alexio Reginaldo Lourenco continues to show his immaturity on the Floor. Apart from creating noisy scene, rushing to the Well of the House and indulging in argument with BJP MLA Nilesh Cabral, the Curtorim MLA is yet to grow up as a politician. Known for his clean image, Lourenco has, however, failed to impress the audience due to his incapability in presenting the issues in right direction or managing to attract government’s attention.
There are ten more Congress MLAs in the House who are yet to make their presence felt in the state Assembly. These include four to five MLAs, who are serving their second or third term as legislators.
Undoubtedly, not just Congress, but the viewers are missing Vijai Sardesai and Rohan Khaunte in the opposition- the two most aggressive voices that on several occasions left ruling side red-faced. Be it casinos, IPB, regional plan, communidade, housing- these two leaders racked every issue on the Floor during their tenure as opposition. Both are now in ruling benches as Ministers.
Keeping up to people’s mandate that came in their favour, Congress will not only have to take the initiative, but also tread cautiously to ensure broader and more durable opposition to the government.
With the ongoing political development outside the Legislative Assembly complex, putting congress to mere embarrassment, we observe the long and slow death of Sonia Gandhi-led party in the small state of Goa, which was ruled by Congress for decades.
Let’s forget the past; in last four months, since the Assembly results were out, Congress brand is severely damaged and carries very little that is positive.
But, above all this, the ruling coalition of BJP, MGP, Goa Forward and Independents, enjoys unmatched discipline and organising power despite having five first time Ministers (including three first time MLAs) and five new MLAs. Congress has lots to learn from the ruling dispensation, whose organisational set up on the Floor of the House is so strong that opposition finds itself on the back-foot in cornering the government.