One would have thought that in a 40-seat assembly like Goa’s, the temptation — and the opportunities — to conduct democratic hanky-panky would be limited. After Monday’s action in Panaji, one has to perish that thought. Goa Speaker Pratapsinh Rane’s decision to disallow three MLAs from participating in the confidence vote was far too obviously a move to ensure that the incumbent Congress-led government survived. After the withdrawal of support for the Digambar Kamat government by the two Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) legislators, Sudhin and Pandurang Dhavlikar, and the subsequent resignation of Congress MLA Victoria Fernandes over internal matters, Governor S.C. Jamir had directed the government to undertake a confidence motion.
Coming as the trust vote did 52 days after the last assembly elections, it seemed that Goa was on the brink of coming up with its 14th Chief Minister since 1990. But the tottering government was propped up by a six-time Congress Chief Minister of Goa and current Speaker. Without blinking an eyelid, Mr Rane put his party credentials out in the open — and his job as an objective referee inside a closet — by casting his, by-now crucial, vote in favour of the government. Mr Kamat could not have found a better saviour.
The truth is that there is no provision in the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, which deals with anti-defection, that applies to restraining legislators from voting before ordering their disqualification according to the due legal process. And that due legal process had not been carried out on Monday. It was the two MGP and single Congress legislators shifting their loyalties to the Opposition that made Mr Kamat leave nothing to chance and democracy and made him carry out a travesty. To stay in power is an integral part of the political game. But to stay in power by throwing the rulebook into the Arabian Sea is something that will not reflect well on the Goa Congress. We have witnessed something disquieting in the state of Goa. It’s up to Governor Jamir to contain the damage.