'Fortnight of the ancestors' stalls Goa power game for now
What has the "fortnight of the ancestors", or pitru paksha, a lunar phase in the Hindu calendar, got to do with governance in Goa?
Plenty apparently, according to members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition, who appear to have decided to abstain from any major decision-making in the already paralysed government until the end of the pitru paksha phase, which two senior ministers say comes to a close after October 8.
Ever since the leadership crisis erupted in Goa following Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar's hospitalisation in Delhi last month, Public Works Department Minister Sudin Dhavalikar and Town and Country Planning Minister Vijai Sardesai have, in several conversations with media persons, said that in view of the pitru paksha, any decision on allocation of portfolios would be taken after the end of the "inauspicious period".
"I met Manohar Parrikar and he is recovering. He told me that he wants to delegate more powers and also have meeting with the cabinet ministers, which will happen after October 10," Sardesai told reporters on October 1, while acknowledging the stalling of portfolio allocation on account of pitru paksha.
Sardesai made the statement soon after meeting Parrikar at the All India Institute for Medical Sciences in Delhi, where the former Defence Minister is being treated for advanced pancreatic cancer.
Last month, when the leaders of the BJP and its ruling allies -- Goa Forward and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party -- were tinkering with the possibility of an alternative arrangement in place of the ailing Parrikar, Dhavalikar insisted that the changes could wait until the pitru paksha period ended.
"What difference would it make, if the BJP waits for another fortnight," Dhavalikar told reporters, when asked if it was alright for major decisions to be stalled on account of belief.
Both Dhavalikar and Sardesai have been haggling for major ministries, which Parrikar, according to both the ruling politicians, is expected to offload on account of his prolonged illness.
Pitru paksha (literally translated as fortnight of the ancestors) is a 16-lunar day period in the Hindu calendar, during which a large section of Hindus pay homage to their ancestors (pitrs) by offering shraddha (ritualistic food offerings to the souls of the dead).
The period, which starts immediately after the Ganesh Chaturthi festival and ends after a fortnight on a new moon night called "sarvapitri amavasya", is considered inauspicious by many.
However, the stalling of decision-making on issues related to political affairs and governance by the ruling combine appears to have even shocked astrology experts in Goa.
Vikramaditya Panshikar, a renowned astrologer based in Goa, said that issues related to governance and those which affect public lives cannot be stalled on account of pitru paksha.
"In fact, this lunar period is misunderstood. How can a period where you pay homage to your ancestors, who are responsible for our very existence, be considered inauspicious? Can all government decisions be stalled on account of a belief like this," Panshikar asked while speaking to IANS.
In fact, the Indian politicians' obsession with the superstitious belief stretches beyond the shores of Goa too. Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi last month drew flak after he urged criminals to refrain from committing crimes during the pitru paksha period.
"With my folded hands I want to appeal to all the criminals to refrain from crime and indulging in criminal activities during the time of pitru paksha... during other days, you keep doing something or the other," Modi was quoted as saying while inaugurating a "pind daan" ceremony in Bihar's Gaya district on September 23.
In Goa, however, the stalling of portfolio allocation and the resultant lethargy in governance has riled the Congress, which has now said that people in Goa are suffering due to the state's ministers' belief in superstition.
"It is condemnable that decisions of the BJP-led coalition government in Goa are stalled and the lives of hundreds of thousands of people impacted by the ministers' belief in superstition. In fact, the coalition partners are jockeying for better ministries. The pitru paksha period is just being used as an excuse by them," Congress spokesperson Urfan Mulla told IANS.- IANS