Monday, May 9, 2011

Need to be Wary of Angry Voters

Need to be Wary of Angry Voters


EVERYONE in Goa is raising the question–what happens if the present government is toppled? If the finance bill is not approved by the evening of March 27, then Goa would be plunged into a constitutional crisis once again.
This is nothing but holding the voters and the people to ransom. Would there be a suspended assembly, a brief presidential rule till a stable combination comes in sight or summary dissolution of the assembly as was done in 2002 and unexpected mid-term polls? People would love a brief presidential rule and would be eager to send home many MLAs if mid-term polls could be held either in May or October 2010. Whatever may be its’ compulsion as Opposition party, it would be completely suicidal for BJP to repeat its’ 1999 experiment once again–first support a small group from outside and then decide to join the government.
On the contrary, with assured support from its’ counterparts in power in Karnataka, the Goa BJP would be in a driving seat materially and logistically if it faces the mid-term poll and banks on peoples’ mounting anger, frustration and helplessness. This time despite some good decisions of the present government, the anti-incumbency factor would weigh solidly.
People are craving for a drastic, radical change. But care has been taken by the dominant politicians that new leadership would not emerge in any constituency.
Political Tamasha
The recent Zilla Panchayat elections have exposed the hollowness of the whole process. Politicians who are opposed to respect the spirit and mandate of the 73rd and 74th amendments and implement the reports of Pai Panandikar and Late Alban Couto Statutory Finance Commissions were claiming victories of their supporters. They were only counting their loyalties, taking care that no challenge would appear to their political power base. The people of Goa are amused by the new political tamasha, another act of the same old circus which has since 1998 plunged the state into the vortex of instability.
This time the destabilising forces in Goa must have smelt a window of opportunity due to the wafer thin majority of the UPA government in Parliament after it lost the support of some influential political parties over the Women’s Reservation Bill. If worse comes worst, then the UPA government would prefer to recommend dissolution of the Parliament and seek a fresh mandate from the people if it senses that it would continue to get blackmailed by the ambitious regional satraps. Such a gamble would be paid for because the common sense of women voters of India would prevail and they would come out in a record number to assert themselves.
There would be interesting repolarisation of the political forces by June this year at central and state level. As things stand today, it would be difficult henceforth for any political party to rule Goa on basis of its’ own strength unless a third force emerges on the political front. That is not possible unless and until the so called ‘apolitical’ forces come together and are willing to give a try to a new model of people-oriented governance. There are half a million young voters who can make a change if they really decide that ‘enough is enough’ and they would have to assert themselves as educated voters to change the political culture.
Educating the Voters
Unfortunately NGOs have constantly shied away from voters’ education. Voters of Goa need systematic counselling by politically neutral or non-aligned personalities. Slowly but perceptibly, the political and electoral landscape of Goa is changing. It would be a mistake of many politicians if they think that they would always be able to influence the voters through various means and manage to win the elections every time. They would have to be ready for a shock this time when the anger of the people may send even a candidate not considered winnable to the legislative assembly. There are no substantive issues in the ongoing political drama. But it is also failure of alliance culture which just couldn’t take off as there was no common minimum programme (CMP).
It was my suggestion to both the CM, Mr Kamat and Home Minister and ex-CM, Mr Ravi Naik in June 2007, immediately after cabinet formation, that to ensure qualitative political stability, good governance and clarity of government policies and schemes they should draw a common minimum program incorporating the salient aspects of Congress, NCP and MGP assembly election manifestoes-2007. Neither the Congress looked at its’ own manifesto seriously nor a CMP emerged. The ego-tussles continued and administration suffered.
Maturity of any government depends on professionalism, pragmatism and seriousness of the cabinet functioning. The cabinet has a special place in our democracy. Its’ sanctity is drawn from ‘We the people’ the preamble of the Constitution. But the meetings of Goa cabinet have been losing the dignity and decorum. A cabinet meeting is not like a village panchayat meeting. But over the years we are witnessing a tremendous erosion of our elected institutions.
The Goa assembly has hardly seen any new radical legislations. Even Assam is improving its’ legislative innovativeness and performance. The small states like Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim are not far behind in enacting good legislations. The present Speaker, Mr Rane attempted some new measures like empowering the ad hoc committees. But his own enthusiasm for reforms and modernisation is not shared by everyone. Ego tussles in the cabinet and lack of floor coordination on the floor of the House among the members of ruling alliance also sends a negative signal to the officers–they get demoralised, frustrated and lose initiative to do anything. Many efficient officers in Goa administration are suffering because their political masters are not interested in good ideas or better governance.
The people of Goa did not ask for another period of political instability. They don’t deserve it when a record heat wave is about to strike Goa with serious shortages of drinking water supply and power supply. There would be a constitutional crisis once again if vote on account is not held to sanction expenditure for next four months. The situation is similar to February-March 2005 when BJP led government was destabilised. People are angry. It doesn’t take many days for public anger to snowball into a giant wave. Goa needs good governance, sensitive, caring, non-corrupt administration. People are not asking for the heavens. But the kingmakers think differently. They wish to introduce a new culture of political feudalism to enslave the voters.
The decisive moment in Goa’s post-liberation history would approach soon. It would be last opportunity in every way for the people of Goa to assert themselves and speak their mind clearly, loudly and decisively.

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