Thursday 21 Jan 2021

Winds of change? Ministers are out in public support

| JANUARY 13, 2021, 10:33 PM IST

The discomfort within the government over critical issues of the State isshowing. The question is how genuine are the concerns raised by a few ministersnow doing a flip-flop and backing protesters. Are they seriously feeling thepulse of people, or are they merely testing the waters to make their politicalmanoeuvres ahead of the 2022 assembly elections?

There appears to be a twist to the script. In the past few days, seniorministers have made sweeping statements, contradicting major decisions of thegovernment. On Tuesday, Waste Management Minister Michael Lobo, a knowncampaigner of government’s policies, took everyone by surprise when hedescended at Dramapur in Salcete and went vocal about his commitment to protectGoa’s land. Throwing subtle hints, he said together with Water ResourcesMinister Felipe Neri, they would take any decision to protect the interest ofthe people of Goa. Terming the uprising against coal and double-tracking as“genuine”, Lobo thundered “We will do whatever is wanted by the people”.
On the same day, Valpoi MLA and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane who proposed andstubbornly defended the IIT at Guleli in Sattari wrote to Chief Minister PramodSawant backing out of the project. He even expressed displeasure over policeaction against the protesters at Melauli. Earlier this month, Tourism MinisterManohar Babu Ajgaonkar was not convinced with the ordinance moved by thegovernment to amend the Municipalities Act.
The restlessness within senior ministers throws open a sea of probabilities.One - that there is no consensus within the cabinet on crucial decisions takenby the government. Two - that Cabinet members are rendered helpless in adecision-making process which is primarily controlled by the Centre. Three -that ministers are feeling the heat with crucial government decisions goingagainst people. Four - that senior members are using pressure tactics by takingpot-shots and making emotional public statements to leverage their politicalpositions. Five - that ministers are delicately balancing aggression anddiplomacy to suit their political interests.
It is baffling to understand why ministers take recourse to public speecheswhen State issues can be debated, discussed and settled within the cabinet.Vishwajit could have engaged the CM on the IIT issues and spoken his mindinstead of going public with his heroics. So is the case with Lobo, who playedto the galleries with his outreach in Salcete, and Ajgaonkar who bottled hisoutrage and let-off the steam elsewhere. In a neutral perspective, these appearto be opportunistic moves to seek alignment with the populace when the falloutis imminent.
Surprisingly, those speaking out have not shown the kind of solidarity that isneeded in backing people. Vishwajit and Lobo spoke about going by the will ofthe people, but both have helplessly watched from the sidelines as protestersfaced the ire of police machinery. None of the ministers empathizing with theagitating people has set a timeline for course-correction. Firing salvos frompublic platforms will not yield any results if there's no follow-up action.Ministers who remain rooted in the government, and have acted as spokespersonsat times, need to do more to win the confidence of people.


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