Panaji, March 29 (IANS) While Goa battles dwindling stock of essential supplies and panic grocery-buying amid the ongoing lockdown, one stock which may have taken a solid beating could well be Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s political goodwill and his ability to govern.
At a recent meeting with members of the Goa Editor’s Guild, panicked Sawant complained to top journalists that news clips detailing inadequacies of his government in handling the COVID-19 crisis had reached the Prime Minister’s Office.
“He asked us why and how the news clips reached the PMO? How can we answer that as editors,” an editor, who attended the meeting told IANS on Sunday on condition of anonymity.
An anxious Sawant, who was forced to abandon his continuous lockdown on Thursday and open grocery stores under immense public pressure, also told reporters at a later interaction, that complaints about his governance were being made to powers “above him”.
“People started criticizing a lot on this issue. People have done many a thing. They complained right at the top, that grocery stores are open across the country in other states, why not in Goa,” Sawant said.
At the press conference, a belligerent Chief Minister suggested that once grocery stores were ordered opened, the government would not take responsibility for everyone’s health.
“People wanted central government guidelines, we are following them 100 per cent. No one complain now and people should take responsibility for their own well-being. The government will not take responsibility for everyone’s health, everyone is responsible for their own,” Sawant said, virtually abdicating his responsibility as the head of state.
While the opposition as well as civil society has been slamming his leadership over the sheer dearth of food availability, daggers are out within his own party, especially from the powerful Gaud Saraswat Brahmin caste leaders across political parties and acolytes of the late Parrikar, who have launched a concerted assault on his leadership.
“If we go by prudent media (a local cable TV platform) news that out state is under lockdown till 31st March and today was our last day to purchase groceries then w are fools to believe out @PMOIndia @narendramodi not to hoard ration. People will no longer co-operate with government if this goes on @PramodSawant,” a former Parrikar aide and ex BJP MLA from Panaji Sidharth Kuncalienkar tweeted on March 24.
Kuncalienkar’s criticism of Sawant, a Maratha by caste, is out in the open, but there are many from the upper caste lobby within the party and outside it who are lobbying for a leadership change internally.
“The Brahmin lobby within has been plotting against Sawant and they have sensed an opportunity. There have been several complaints made by the PMO and the Union Home Ministry. It was on the Home Ministrya¿s insistence subsequently that the Chief Minister was forced to reluctantly open grocery stores in Goa,” a senior BJP functionary told IANS.
When asked if Sawant was falling short vis a vis delivering on leadership and about his mismanagement of the lockdown, State BJP president Sadanand Shet Tanavade told IANS: “There is no question of leadership crisis. He is by profession a doctor and knows the consequences (of COVID-19). He felt that even if there were guidelines, he wanted to impose a 100 per cent lockdown”.
While not commenting on criticism of Sawant’s leadership within his own party, Tanavade also blamed three opposition MLAs Rohan Khaunte, Digambar Kamat, Vijai Sardesai, all incidentally from the GSB caste group, of “using the crisis for political end by creating fear among people”.