Dr. Pramod Sawant is not a political leader in the league of the Late Manohar Parrikar.
I never expected him to be. It will take time for him to even come even close to the legacy of a visionary politician like Manohar Parrikar.
Sawant is not a long-term visionary. I see him as short-term manager of the Chief Minister’s chair for the BJP-led government, because the party has a lack of leadership in the state and because he is the most grounded of the political leaders to toe the line of the party high command in Delhi and RSS.
His elevation to the CM’s chair and his continuance in that position has disheveled many political leaders within the BJP, outside of the BJP, and powerful stakeholders with business interests in the state.
I am not saying that he does not have the aptitude. Of course, he does. He was put in the CM’s chair because he has the administrative common sense to work in alignment with the party high command and their interest in Goa. Any freethinking politician or a senior leader within the party would be difficult to control and tame.
In fact, Sawant saw his respectability grow in Delhi, with what his close advisors say was a strategic masterstroke in importing 10 MLAs from Congress into the BJP and 2 from MGP.
With this move, he not only kept the politician he sees as his nemesis Vijai Sardesai out of the government and forced him to leave NDA. He also checkmated Ramakrishna (Sudin) Dhavlikar of the MGP who wanted the CM’s position so badly and was trying to use his equation with Nitin Gadkari to angle for it by joining the BJP.
Two senior leaders, one Rajendra Arlekar has been ceremoniously shunted out to the Governor position in Himachal Pradesh. And I think that it was a brilliant move because he is a loyal BJP leader. He still has a lot that he could contribute to India rather than pit himself against other BJP leaders in the state.
Second is Shripad Naik, who in my opinion should have been made the Chief Minister of Goa after the unfortunate demise of Manohar Parrikar. But unfortunately, people at the BJP headquarters do not want to see him in any role at a state level. They need him at the Centre.
There is another contender, Vinay Tendulkar, the current BJP Rajya Sabha MP, who has been eyeing the coveted CM’s position from the time Parrikar was unwell. While under his Presidentship at the state level, BJP secured the government through machinations. He is not seen as a man with inspiring leadership by people at a state level or at the Centre. But he gets the job done in his own unique way. Being a CM requires a difficult finesse. I do not think Vinay Tendulkar fits the bill. He should be taken to the Centre in some role of significance.
In the race for the Chief Minister’s chair from the BJP in Goa, I see two candidates as the Dark Horses.
One is Vishwajit Rane, who has been harbouring this ambition since he was in Congress. He is the sharpest and slyest politician in the BJP at this point in time. He is an astute politician and he is quiet. He does not use media to blow his trumpet to exhibit his intelligence or exaggerate his ministerial work. He gets what he wants and when he wants it, and for that, he plays with most politicians in the BJP in the state and at the Centre. He plays the goody-two-shoes boy with such elan that it is a treat watch but he is most the deceptive and also vindictive of politicians in the state. As a Chief Minister, he could do extremely well but he could also become a tyrant in power when he gets it.
The other potential candidate is Mauvin Godinho, yet another Congress minister, who shifted loyalty to the BJP. He is not too ambitious and does not aspire to be the CM. He is quite happy being in charge of important portfolios and he is happy to play second fiddle to a CM, as long as he gets to run his show in his ministries without interference. He is also one of the most experienced in the BJP team in the role of a minister. Making him, a Christian MLA, as a Chief Minister could be a masterstroke for the BJP not only in Goa but India too. He is also someone that will toe the line of the Centre and it is not too rebellious.
But I know the BJP well enough to know that they will continue to place their bets on Dr. Pramod Sawant, no matter which lobby in the state tries to target his CM’s position. Sawant is seen as a grassroots worker and a hardcore loyalist of the party and the Singh Parivar.
The leadership in Delhi and Nagpur do not have a negative opinion about him. In fact, most are of the opinion that he is the appropriate choice, if not the best, for the CM’s position in Goa from the BJP.
BJP at the Centre like most Goans, know that it will take time for another leader like Manohar Parrikar to rise up from Goa. So until then at least for the Goa Assembly Elections 2022, BJP will go with Dr. Pramod Sawant as the Chief Ministerial face of the BJP in Goa.