Panaji, Jan 4 (IANS) Is late Manohar Parrikar’s arch political foe, former Chief Minister and currently the Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat on his way to back to the BJP?
Political circles in Goa are abuzz about the possibility of yet another high profile departure from the state Congress ranks, especially after leading statements by Kamat himself and state Congress president Girish Chodankar, have raised questions about former’s future in the Congress.
Speaking to IANS, the 65-year-old Kamat has said, that he always believes in the present and not about the past or the future.
When asked if his statement could have political implications, Kamat, who has served as the Chief Minister of a Congress-led coalition government from 2007-2012, said: “I am not bothered about what others say. My thing is very clear. I live in the present. I don’t think about the past. I don’t think about the future. I think the present. You ask me (about) today”.
Like most elected politicians in Goa, Kamat has vaulted political party fences in the past. Kamat has been elected to the state assembly from the Margao assembly seat in South Goa without a break since 1994. After he was denied a Congress ticket ahead of the 1994 polls, he switched to the BJP and won. He and Parrikar emerged as two key politicians belonging to the influential Gaud Saraswat Brahmin (GSB) caste grouping.
Kamat was to remain in Parrikar’s shadow in the saffron party until 2005, when he quit the BJP and join the Congress much to the chagrin of the former Defence Minister, who cried betrayal.
Kamat went on to become Chief Minister from 2007-2012. After Parrikar’s BJP was voted to power in 2012, Kamat came into the former’s cross-hairs and survived a tough spell for a few years, when he was ‘chased’ by the Parrikar-led administration in connection with an alleged illegal mining scam and the Louis Berger bribery scandal.
Despite the bulls-eye painted on his back by Parrikar, Kamat continued to be in good books with state BJP leaders, something which could pay off now, at a time when the BJP is desperately short of credible ‘Hindu’ leaders, with a track record in governance, especially in view of the popular flak faced by the Pramod Sawant-led administration over a wide range of issues. Sawant is also weathering severe criticism from the GSB community, several of who’s leaders have accused the CM of trying to target Parrikar’s ‘legacy’.
Kamat, who led a hodge-podge coalition which completed a full term in power from 2007-2012, despite regular cantankerous fits and egoistic outbursts by alliance members, has the backing of the Brahmin sub caste, which wields control of significant business interests in the state, including the mining industry.
Goa Congress president Girish Chodankar, who appears to cut an isolated and frustrated figure in party’s state apparatus, in a recent press conference gave a convoluted response to questions about Kamat’s future in the party.
“He (CM Pramod Sawant) cannot manage the economy. He cannot ensure resumption of mining and resolve the Mhadei issue. The BJP leaders are convinced that he does not have the ability to tackle these issues. They feel that Digambar Kamat has the capacity to resolve these questions,” Chodankar told reporters.
“Many BJP leaders are chasing Digambar Kamat to join BJP and become CM. They (BJP leaders) we will will remove Sawant and keep him under (Kamat) for training. We will make the CM as a deputy and let him train. After that he could come back as CM,” the state Congress president also said. Chodankar also added a rider, that he wasn’t implying that Kamat should leave the Congress.
While BJP leadership is tight-lipped about the possibility of Kamat’s entry into the party, the latter’s re-entry into the BJP has come up in discussions within the ruling party members, especially immediately following the death of Parrikar (last year), who was against allowing his arch political foe back into the saffron party.
“It was different when Manohar Parrikar was around and calling the shots. But that is not the case now. Ground realities have changed,” a BJP leader said on condition of anonymity.