A history of instability

Print edition : February 25, 2005

IN the 1990s Goa hit the headlines often for frequent change of government. Between 1990 and 2002, 13 governments ruled the State. While defections by legislators were not new, defections to topple governments became common only after 1984. In 1984, Wilfred D'Souza, Public Works Minister in the Pratapsinh Rane-led Congress government, deserted the party with 11 MLAs. However, Rane was able to continue in power with the support of 15 MLAs and a few independents.

This former Portuguese colony had two regional parties - the Mahrashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the United Goans Party (UGP) - after liberation in 1961. While the MGP was a mass-based party with a pro-Marathi stance, the UGP comprised the landlord class and Catholics, dominated by Christian Brahmins. While the MGP ruled Goa for almost 17 years from 1963, the UGP played the role of a strong Opposition.

The first defection took place in 1967-68 when seven legislators withdrew support to the D.B. Bandodkar government. (Bandodkar, the first Chief Minister, was in his second term in office.) However, he managed to stay in power by roping in some UGP legislators, recalls Sandesh Prabhudesai, Editor of the Konkani daily Sunaparant. Bandodkar was the first non-Congress Chief Minister to introduce land reforms in Goa and is still revered among the peasant community.

In the 1980s, as politics in the Union Territory started to follow trends in New Delhi, the Congress emerged as a major player in State politics at the expense of the MGP and the UGP. The Rane government (1985-90), which came to power with the support of 18 legislators in a 30-member House, was the only one unaffected by defections.

Once Goa became a State in 1989, revenue collection at the State-level increased, noted senior journalist Prakash Kamat. The urge to control collection and expenditure, which would show ways for "earning", guided defections and toppling of governments thereafter, he said.

With statehood, the Assembly strength grew from 30 to 40 seats. The 1990s also saw the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party - from four seats in the Assembly in 1994 to 17 seats in May 2002. The Congress' perceived attitude of taking the Catholics for granted angered the community and paved the way for the emergence of the United Goans Democratic Party from the UGP. Unhappy with the Congress' style of functioning and rampant corruption, the MGP and the UGDP supported the BJP government led by Manohar Parrikar in 2002.

However, Parrikar's attempts to cut their base by engineering splits and defections annoyed them. Above all, Parrikar's attempts to push in the agenda of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), including the controversial VCD on Goan liberation, angered the UGDP.

After attaining statehood Goa saw the emergence of a five-star hotel lobby that began to exercise control over the government, as the State had become a global tourist destination. This lobby was followed by the builders' lobby. The growing number of political leaders with practically no social commitment accelerated the toppling of governments. Of the four MLAs who deserted the BJP to topple the Parrikar government, one was a moneylender, one a non-resident Indian (NRI) businessman, and one a builder. Parrikar patronised all of them and now they are controlling the Rane government.

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