Hampered by voter anger and rebellion in Goa, the BJP turns to a familiar ploy: targeting Nehru
Panji: The latest phase of elections in Goa has put a fragile Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the defensive, with the ruling party and its phalanx of big faces trying to distract the voter with an orchestrated attack on Jawaharlal Nehru and his role in liberating from Goa. of December 1961.
Playing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s spiel in parliament that Jawaharlal Nehru deliberately ‘delayed’ military action to liberate Goa from Portuguese colonial rule with Indian independence, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh – campaigning in Goa on February 9 – sang the same tune.
Had Nehru been a decisive prime minister, Goa would have been liberated in 1947, rather than 1961, Shah said, with Singh echoing the attack.
“By trying to demolish Nehru’s image, the BJP thinks it will help them hurt Congress in this election,” said writer Konkani, former editor and lawyer Uday Bhembre.
As voter resentment against the BJP runs high, the Congress campaign has gathered pace, positioning it as the main challenger in this election, as acute disruptions from the Aam Aadmi Party and the Trinamool Congress fade away.
Bhembre says the BJP’s attack on Nehru’s role in liberating Goa is a “deliberate attempt to distort history” and in line with the party’s political strategy to discredit him.
“Nehru was a perfect democrat, and his decision to refrain from military action must be seen in the context of the political history of the time,” he says. Caught in the spiral of management problems in the country after independence, the case of Goa would hardly have figured on the agenda of the new Congress government. “In any case, the decision to annex Goa was not just Nehru’s, but the cabinet’s,” says Bhembre.
Hands tied by India’s commitment to the UN and the Non-Aligned Movement to refrain from using force to retake Goa, the country’s first prime minister has spent years exploring all options diplomatic efforts to convince the Portuguese dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar to peacefully renounce Goa. . The New York Times reported in July 1955 that Nehru had met Pope Pius XII in Rome and raised the “Goa Question”.
Quote from Pundalik Gaitonde’s book The Liberation of Goa: A Participant’s View Of the history, Bhembre says Nehru sent the surgeon from Goa (Gaitonde) who had connections in London to various diplomatic missions abroad “to ensure that Salazar does not force us into military action”. Gaitonde, a critic of the colonial regime, was arrested in Goa in 1954 and deported to Portugal. He was released in 1955, after which he became something of an unofficial Nehru diplomat pushing for the cause of the peaceful dismantling of colonial rule in Goa.
Exposing the BJP’s falsification of the Goa resistance struggle is also personal for Bhembre. His father, Laxmikant Bhembre, was arrested by the Portuguese in 1946, sentenced to four years and deported to the infamous political prison of Fort Peniche, Portugal (the prison is now the National Museum of Resistance and Freedom ). Bhembre’s father spent 16 years in exile in Portugal before being allowed to return to Goa after the Liberation.
Although the RSS played no role in resisting Portuguese rule, as Bhembre points out, in another attempt to reinvent the historical narrative, the BJP under the late Manohar Parrikar, praised dozens of Sangh members for having “participated” in the Goa liberation movement.
“The dynamics and politics of the Goa liberation struggle had to take into account the national and international geopolitics of this period. Today, historiography seems to be influenced by the color of political ideology. Leaders are either humanized or demonized depending on which side of the political spectrum they belong to,” says writer and history professor Sushila Sawant Mendes.
Rebellions and departures
It is not Congress alone that is pinching the BJP’s Achilles’ heel in this election. The party has been hit by a series of departures and rebellions that threaten to overturn any hopes it has of getting closer to the larger party, let alone a majority on its own.
The most prominent face to have deserted the saffron party is former defense minister Manohar Parrikar’s son, Utpal. Snubbed for a ticket by the BJP to compete in Panaji, the seat his father had won six times, Utpal Parrikar is running as an independent to eliminate official BJP candidate Babush Monserrate. He felt compelled to enter the contest to “fight against the criminalization of politics” in his father’s constituency, said Parrikar Junior.
“I’m fighting the biggest battle of my life and I’m putting my career on the line,” he said. Thread, especially since he had to “cut ties with those who are at the highest level in the country”. The 42-year-old computer engineer was summoned to Delhi by Shah, who tried to get him to change his mind, but to no avail.
Utpal Parrikar’s challenge was particularly embarrassing for the BJP, not only because of the optics and media coverage it attracted, but also because it generated sympathy for his cause among supporters of Manohar Parrikar through Goa. “It will cost the party at least 500 votes in every constituency in Goa,” says one of its campaign managers. With a small voter base of around 30,000 each, 500 votes are significant in close contests.
Parrikar’s son is not the only BJP rebel in the race. The party’s former chief minister, Laxmikant Parsekar, is also a candidate as an independent of Mandrem. Several others have moved to other parties.
One of the BJP’s biggest losses was its former minister Michael Lobo’s stint in Congress. Lobo, who has been baiting the saffron party for months, could sway the fortunes of Congress in at least four seats around his constituency, Calangute, where he has cemented his political position over the past 10 years.
For the Congress, the decision of its former chief minister Pratapsingh Rane to withdraw from this election – out of respect for his son Vishvajit, who has made his mark in the BJP – is also a setback.
By 2017, Congress had become the largest party with 17+1 seats (NCP) in the 40-member House. The BJP had dropped to 13 seats, down seven from its 2012 tally. But it managed to form the government by cobbling together a majority with the Goa Forward Party (GFP), Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and independent deputies. GFP has a pre-election alliance with Congress in this election. The MGP has linked up with the TMC.