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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Vijai Sardesai must not trust the Congress and BJP


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I have known Vijai Sardesai for a long time. He is one among the political class I call a friend and also whom I value as a politician. He is also one of the three politicians from Goa that I have invited to my home and my home always welcomes him, irrespective of our diverse political views. We enjoy our political banter.

I do not agree with him on numerous issues and some political decisions that he has taken in his political career. His political story is filled with ups and downs but most all betrayal by people in the political landscape in Goa, particularly the national political parties – Congress and BJP.

There would be months when we would not speak to each other because of some political decision that he would have embarked on, which I disagreed with. Or because of some articles or statements I would make in my pursuit for the truth and nationalistic fervour that would sometimes clash with his minority voters in the state, where he would then avoid contact with me.

Sardesai is an intelligent politician and someone who understands Goa, India and global politics. He is also a futurist. He has a vision for Goa. Some bits of his vision would need to be refined but at least the vision is progressive and is driven by economic, ecological and evolutionary sensibilities.

He is a politician who by sheer grit and determination carved a niche for himself in the Goan political scene. Both powers in Goa, Congress and BJP have betrayed him and have tried to crush him under their local and national political might.

I often tell him that while the future is regional parties for Goa, it cannot sustain because of the financial power that is required to compete with national political parties. Eventually, even if he was to ensure that the Goa Forward Party candidates win, he could never become the single-largest party. GFP just does not have the financial resources to contest even 20 seats in Goa, he will have to forge an alliance with either Congress or BJP.

That’s exactly the situation that arose in the Goa Assembly Elections 2017. He chose BJP because of the Late Manohar Parrikar. He was open to an alliance with the Congress pre-alliance or post-alliance. Unfortunately, Congress leaders in Goa and some of the political leaders from Congress Headquarters in Delhi were just to arrogant to understand his importance. But, mostly they felt threatened by him. They feared his rise to prominence and, in political stature would wipe out their importance.

In fact it is Congress that forced him to build a force around him by refusing to give him a Congress ticket way back in 2012 and offered the Fatorda seat to a politician from Congress who would not be able gather a crowd of 50 people on his own merit, if he had too. He was a hangar of the Congress and continues to remain a hangar. Sardesai on the other hand grew from strength to strength. Congress from a power-centre in the state has reduced itself to a powerless bunch of seat warming political deadwood. The testimony of this hard fact is that 15 MLAs in the BJP-led government are former Congress leaders, some were ministers and one was even party president of the Goa Congress.

I have always told Sardesai to never trust the Congress or rely on them, even though politically, if they combined for the upcoming Goa Assembly Elections 2022, they could garner a considerable size of the vote share in the state. But Congress cannot be trusted, even though they create an impression that it is Sardesai who cannot be trusted.

Sardesai in my understanding is a politician that can be trusted, but if you deliberately step on his toes and make it a habit to step on his whole body; then he is not going to be one who would sit down calmly to subserviently take the beating and the condescension.

He is a self-made politician but most of all a self-made man. He is driven by his political ambition and also this belief that he has the intelligence to take Goa Forward literally. He is a rare combination of street intelligence and book intelligence. He is primarily a smart political street fighter with a thinking and analytical mind.
Politicians in Goa, even the ones that dislike him will not speak bad about his political acumen and ruthless political fervour. They are just intimidated by him. Nobody likes to be around someone who is more intelligent than them, especially in political circles. They prefer to have lapdogs that jump on their command.

BJP lost a good ally in Vijai Sardesai when they decided to induct the 10 Congress MLAs and keep GFP out of the alliance in the Goa government. The funny bit is that BJP’s plan then was to keep Sardesai out of the government to protect its Chief Ministerial candidate Dr Pramod Sawant. Let’s me be honest, Dr Sawant would have certainly been insecure about Sardesai. More importantly, Sardesai would never work under Dr Sawant as the Chief Minister. Sardesai does not consider Dr Sawant to have the prowess to match his political acumen and intelligence. BJP decided on an immediate strategy of inducting the 10 Congress MLAs, with a poor understanding of its ground impact. This decision will become its Achilles Heel in the upcoming Goa Elections 2022. 70 percent of the Congress MLAs that joined BJP would not win, including one of its Deputy Chief Minister.

In fact, Sardesai was most critical of Late Manohar Parrikar when he was the Chief Minister of Goa and when Sardesai was in the Opposition. Yet they both buried their differences and worked together in an alliance in the Goa government formation in 2017. Sardesai worked with Parrikar because he would be in a position to learn from the experience of Parrikar. BJP in Delhi should have understood that if Parrikar saw political value in Sardesai, then they should have found a common ground to keep him or engage with him. BJP Delhi based on feedback from BJP Goa decided to do with Sardesai what Congress did – which is to treat him as a pariah and someone of no importance. He has now become a thorn in the backside of BJP and there is no doubt in my mind that his party will perform and win seats enough to have bargaining power.

It is said in a teachers life, make the most naughty student of your class the class monitor, so that the student does not get the opportunities to be naughty but focus on the role of being a monitor. This principle applies in politics too. The politician who can create most trouble for us must always be on our side and not as our rival. That’s what Parrikar understood. He knew he could utilise the talent of Sardesai for the state, rather than have him in the Opposition and then Sardesai would put BJP on the mat regularly, especially during the Assembly sessions. Sardesai, Reginald and Khaunte were the only Opposition to BJP in the last couple of years.

Sardesai is that politician, when he is friend, he is a friend but when he is an enemy, he is the worst enemy you can have.

Instead of Congress and BJP, I think Sardesai should logically forge an alliance with the TMC and ride on their national political aspirations through Goa. AAP is not political party that will have the sensibilities to understand or work with someone like Sardesai. For TMC, he is the perfect CM candidate face, not Luizinho Faleiro. Faleiro should be content with getting a Rajya Sabha and so that he gets the opportunity to shed his constant crocodile tears about the plight of India under Narendra Modi. I see Faleiro in Parliament as the older male version of Mahua Moitra from West Bengal. He would certainly win the tragedy king of Parliament title.

If TMC and GFP forge an alliance, people of some political value would join TMC rather then the political deadwood joining them. More importantly it opens the electoral game for the Goa Elections 2022 and if they get MGP to join, then it is not going to be an easy cake walk for BJP and Congress will be wiped out. AAP, as a political party will do what it needs to do eat Congress votes. TMC-GFP-MGP alliance will eat Congress and BJP votes.
The only problem is that TMC in Goa is like a car without a number plate. So it is not going to be a easy election for TMC but with Sardesai in their camp, he will have the requisite financial and strategic national muscle to not be restricted to 10 seats but go after all 40 seats.

Politics make strange bed-fellows. TMC and GFP coming together is something no one would ever fathom. But logically it should happen. I am not sure it will. But for TMC and for GFP, it makes political sense. You would expect an alliance with Congress in all likelihood but I know Congress will play it’s often played card which would be to keep Sardesai hanging and treat him like a Pariah. There is no point in a relationship when there is no respect for your own individuality. As far as BJP is concerned, Sardesai will never align with BJP if Dr Pramod Sawant is the BJP Chief Minister candidate because sadly Sardesai does not see him as Chief Minister but a Cheap Minister. And Dr Sawant does not see Sardesai of any political value but an empty vessel that makes the most noise.

Sardesai is one politician whose career growth and political strategies I have always found interesting to study. I hope he makes the right decision in the interest of Goa Forward, literally speaking. He is a political asset for Goa irrespective of his shortfalls. I will continue to be one of his biggest critics as a friend and journalist. I see the good he has done and can do if the opportunity comes his way. He just needs to take a step back and see the bigger picture of the game. Then he can make his moves more definitively.

If he and TMC forge an alliance it would put him and me on Opposite side of the table, because I am most critical of TMC’s brand of politics. TMC’s West Bengal brand of politics will never find space in Goa. TMC can only make some impact, if they tame their politics to Goan sensibilities. That however is asking for too much from Mamata Banerjee and TMC. So while Faleiro is the air in the tires, Sardesai could be the driver of the car with no number plate.

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