New Delhi: The BJP-run Goa government’s move to confer a “lifetime cabinet rank” on former chief minister and veteran Congress leader Pratapsingh Rane has raised speculation about whether the latter will contest the assembly elections this time around.
The 40-member Goa assembly goes to elections on 14 February.
Pratapsingh Rane is the sitting MLA from Goa’s Poriem constituency, which he has now held for 11 consecutive terms. He has been sworn in as chief minister six times.
The Goa government announced Thursday that it will confer Rane with a “lifelong cabinet status” for completing 50 years as MLA, and for his service to the state in his roles as chief minister and assembly speaker.
In a notification issued Friday, the state government said Rane was “given lifetime status of the rank of cabinet minister, with all consequential benefits”.
The Goa government’s decision comes against the backdrop of a tussle between Pratapsingh Rane and his son, BJP minister Vishwajit Rane, as the latter tries to convince the former to give up his Poriem seat and “gracefully retire”.
The move has been described by the Congress as a “gimmick”, with the party also accusing the BJP of using Rane, who turns 83 later this month, as a “pawn for their cheap political stunts”.
ThePrint reached Pratapsingh Rane for a comment through calls but there was no response by the time of publishing this report.
The Congress has said, meanwhile, that Pratapsingh Rane had been “offered the Poriem seat”, but “he has not decided yet” on whether he will contest the upcoming assembly polls.
“We have offered the seat to him and left it to his decision,” Congress MP and the party’s Goa observer, P. Chidambaram, said at a press conference in Panaji Saturday.
He added: “He has not decided yet. We respect his age and his decision. There’s no harm in waiting for him to take his decision. That seat has been a traditional Congress seat and we will win that seat this time also.”
‘Does Constitution even allow this?’
Making the announcement about Pratapsingh Rane’s lifetime cabinet rank, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said Rane had been of “great service to the state”.
In a tweet on 6 January, after the decision was taken at a meeting of the state cabinet, Sawant added that Rane will “always be an inspiration to the people of Goa across strata”.
He will always be an inspiration to the people of Goa across strata. I look forward to his continued guidance as we work towards the welfare of the people and development of the State. I congratulate him and wish him all the very best in all his future endeavours. 2/2
— Dr. Pramod Sawant (@DrPramodPSawant) January 6, 2022
If Pratapsingh contests the election next month, Poriem will likely see a prospective father-vs-son battle between him and Vishwajit.
On 21 December, a day before the Congress high-command in Delhi approved Pratapsingh Rane’s nomination from the Poriem constituency, Vishwajit had asked him to “gracefully retire”.
Vishwajit, a former Congress leader, joined the BJP in 2o17. The MLA from Valpoi, who is also the health minister of Goa, is believed to have wanted his wife to contest from his seat while he moved to Poriem.
Poriem and Valpoi — adjoining constituencies on the Karnataka-Goa border — have been bastions of the Rane family.
While Pratapsingh had himself written to the Congress high-command to approve his nomination, he appeared non-committal in a press conference on 21 December.
“My workers have taken this decision (to contest). They have said that I should contest the elections. Let us see what the people say,” he said.
Reacting to the government conferring the “lifetime cabinet member” title on Pratapsingh, Vishwajit called it a “well-deserved recognition”.
You are an inspiration baba and I will always look upto you. My heartiest congratulations to you for this well deserved recognition. Your service in public life will always be treasured. pic.twitter.com/zZln8I6Wpj
— VishwajitRane (@visrane) January 6, 2022
However, the Congress has questioned the constitutionality of the title.
“There is no such constitutional provision for the post of lifetime cabinet status. If contested, in court, this gimmick of the BJP will be exposed,” Goa Congress president Girish Chodankar told ThePrint.
The All India Congress Committee (AICC) Goa in-charge, Dinesh Gundu Rao, also tweeted along similar lines, asking if such a move was “even allowed in the Constitution”.
Is it even allowed in the Constitution?
Why indulge in these gimmicks for political benefits?
Why use the most respected
Sri Prathapsingh Raneji as a pawn for their cheap political stunts?
The desperate tactics of BJP is shameful. https://t.co/00vpoUkpuD
— Dinesh Gundu Rao/ದಿನೇಶ್ ಗುಂಡೂರಾವ್ (@dineshgrao) January 7, 2022
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)