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Dhavlikars Should Address Discontent

All does not appear to be well within the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), the longest surviving regional party of the state. The dissension which was well within the party’s inner walls appears to have breached them and come out in open. While one of its central committee member and general secretary, Lavoo Mamledar, openly criticized the autocratic functioning of the party president, Pandurang Dhavlikar, others have preferred to do it discreetly. The members of the party feel that there was lack of dialogue within the party on important issues concerning the state. Some others in the party have endorsed the opinion expressed by Mamledar on the happenings within the party while decrying the function of the party president. Apparently emboldened by the courage shown by Mamledar, other members of the central committee appear to have questioned the authority of the party president and his brother, the senior leader of the party, Ramkrishna Dhavlikar. Ever since the Dhavlikars took control of the party they have had an easy going with none coming forward to challenge them. This is for the first time in nearly two decades that someone from the party has questioned the authority of the Dhavlikar brothers and accused them of promoting family rule.

Formed in 1963, the MGP ruled the state for 17 years in a row since its inception, first under the monolithic leadership of Dayanand Bandodkar and after his death under his daughter, Shashikala Kakodkar. The party, however, failed to form government on its own but has been part of several governments that ruled the state. For nearly two decades now MGP has been a constituent of every government has been formed in the state, largely due to skillful manoeuvering by senior Dhavlikar with every party that has formed the government. The ‘greed’ for power has prompted the party leadership to change allies frequently. Despite having vowed not to associate with the Bharatiya Janata Party before the last assembly election, the MGP chose to be part of the government led by Manohar Parrikar, a year ago. The disgruntled leaders of MGP feel that they were let down when Dhavlikars decided to be part of the current government. The issue of extending support to the BJP government according to the MGP leaders was not discussed in any of the party fora and hence was illegal. Given the current political scenario, many of them are also apprehensive of the party’s top leadership alleged planning to merge MGP with BJP so that the dream of senior Dhavlikar to become the Chief Minister could be fulfilled.

Though the party has not been in power on its own for nearly three decades now, it has been able to retain its following in many parts of the state. The party initially became popular among Bahujan Samaj of the state because its plank was largely based on populism and its leadership promised a better deal to the economically deprived and socially oppressed sections. The diehards among the party followers are ready to sacrifice anything for the party even now. After losing power in 1979, the party has seen many ups and down. It was reduced to just two seats in 1980 elections but saw its fortunes turn around in subsequent election and it managed to get 18 seats, under the leadership of Ramakant Khalap. It, however, could not form the government on its own. Despite it playing second fiddle since then the party has managed to retain its following as many people still feel that they owe their present status to the first chief minister of Goa. The leadership of the party has since passed into the hands of Dhavlikars, who are upper cast Brahmins but who have taken full advantage of the following of the party among the people.

That there are rumblings from within is an indication that there was something amiss and party leaders have thought that it was time for them to speak up before it is too late. The recent criticism by Mamledar and endorsement by others indicates that some of MGP leaders, if not all, want more say in the affairs of the party. Besides, there is a feeling among the members of the oldest regional party in the state that the top leadership of the party has been ignoring them while deciding on major issues. The party leadership would do well by addressing the issues raised by the disgruntled leaders as any attempt to suppress the voices of discontent could be detrimental to its cause. Party leaders have to weigh the long term consequences of their actions, which otherwise could be detrimental to the interest of the party. Rather than trying to run down those opposed to their ideas it would be better if the issues raised by the party leaders are discussed and addressed to prevent further discontentment or any rebellion among the party workers and leaders and ensure unity.

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