Right wing vs BJP: Goa's unusual Assembly election race

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 12, 2017 11:23 hrs
Right wing vs BJP: Goa's unusual Assembly election race

(Image source: Facebook/laxmikantparsekarofficial)

The coastal state of Goa, with its 40 assembly seats, will go to the polls on 4th February. Despite the BJP’s decisive win in the 2012 elections, it may not be as easy this time around. During the last election, the ruling Congress was defeated by a BJP – Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) alliance, with the BJP winning 21 of the 28 seats that it contested and the MGP, winning 3 seats. This time however, two things have changed – Aam Admi Party is in the fray and the MGP has broken its alliance with the BJP.

A right wing regional alliance against the BJP

According to The First Post, this parting of ways may prove to be costly -

it would have been an easy election for BJP if its ally MGP had not split with it and the medium of instruction issue had not given rise to another political outfit – Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) led by RSS rebel Subhash Velingkar.The three pro-Hindutva outfits - MGP, GSM and Shiv Sena - may eat into the votes of BJP and are likely to give the ruling party a tough challenge in several constituencies.

Added to the split from the MGP is a formation of another right wing outfit, Goa Suraksha Manch, led by Subhash Velingkar, which broke away from the RSS. The BJP’s refusal to defund government aided primary schools which have English as the medium of instruction, was the root cause of the dispute. Now, these parties have joined forces and have accused the BJP of betraying their identity. In fact, the Business Standard reported that these parties have accused BJP of using the Portugese Prime Minister’s visit to break into the minority vote bank and have gone on to demand an apology from him for the atrocities committed by the colonial rulers. Velingkar was quoted as saying –

The BJP should have been the first to demand an apology from the Portuguese head of state. But after coming to power, both in Goa as well as at the Centre, the party has shed its nationalistic cloak,

However, according to this editorial in the Goa Herald, there are chances for the MGP to switch positions after the results.

There may yet end up being in a situation, where the wheel will come a full circle and the MGP may have no option but to support the BJP, if the Congress doesn’t have enough to form a post-poll government with MGP’s outside support. The MGP is not used to being out of power and will do any deal to get back in government. And that is something the BJP hopes to take advantage of.

Rohan Venkataramkrishnan also predicts a similar scenario. In this article in the Scroll, he says that the rise of the regional parties may result in a split verdict, but with the BJP at the Centre, they will be in a better position to forge a post-verdict alliance in order to form the government. The article concludes that many will be closely watching Mohan Parrikar who was Chief Minister until he resigned to work as Minister of Defense at the centre. Parrikar continues to be the face of the BJP in the state.

Parsekar has been mostly lacklustre, particularly in his responses to the various splits and factionalism, meaning this election will also be something of a test of Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s political career – since, even though he left the chief ministerial position a few years ago, he is often called out in Delhi for spending too much time back in Goa. A loss for the BJP will hurt his political fortunes as well.

What then, would be BJP’s strategy to win? According to Abhiram Ghadyapatil’s article in The Live Mint, the party may try and capture the christian vote.

The BJP is also banking on a possible split in the Christian vote which is the most consolidated and significant constituency in this coastal state. Of Goa’s 1.3 million population, nearly 25% are Christians. In the 2012 election, according to the Goa BJP, 5-to-8% of Christians voted for the party, impressed by its anti-illegal mining position and Parrikar’s clean image.

The same article also points out that the BJP’s belief that demonetisation move will work in their favour maybe erroneous, as the tourist state has been hit hard with long ATM queues.

The Union budget presentation on 1 February may have a negative impact in an alert state like Goa because people here may feel the BJP is using the government machinery for political ends.

Can the Congress make a comeback?

In the 2012 elections, the Digambar Kamat led Congress government won only 9 assembly seats. However, the Indian Express reports that the alliance with the Goa Forward Party may still give it some chances. The article also notes that the Congress’s campaign promises mirror those made by the BJP in the last election. The state’s party leader Luizinho Faleiro said -

The BJP’s promises of zero tolerance to corruption, drugs and prostitution have been a failure. We want ethical tourism and not drugs, prostitution and casinos in the name of promoting tourism in the state. At the same time, we will ensure protection of environment and ecology.

The BJP too contends that the Congress will be the main opposition. News18 quotes spokes person Narendra Savoikar -

If you ask me, the Congress could be the main opponent for the elections because it is a main opposition party in the assembly and a national party like us.

According to Kamal Mitra Chenoy in Catch News, the Goa elections can only be won by a party that has a good relationship with the panchayats.

Goa is a fairly unusual state as far as political equations go. The panchayats and their constituents are very powerful in their areas. As far as potential candidates are concerned, they have little chance at the hustings unless the panchayat is with them.

The writer predicts that although the Congress is perceived to be corrupt, it is likely to be the winner.

Does Goa want Aam Admi Party?

The Aam Admi Party has been campaigning relentlessly in Goa, contesting all seats alone with Elvis Gomes, a retired bureaucrat, as the Chief Ministerial candidate. He will be contesting against the present Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar in Conculim, south Goa. Gomes is reportedly known for his experience and clean image.

The Indian Express reports that the 53 years took voluntary retirement to join the Aam Admi Party and has worked in prisons, ports, urban development, Goa Housing Board and the Municipal Corporation. The primary message has been one promising employment generation and a corruption free government.

However, Gomes is currently being investigated by the Anti Corruption Board for allegedly changing agricultural land to residential land as a favour to a private party. In an interview to The Hindustan Times, he responded –

That case was meant purely for media consumption. It is alleged that there was a proposal to acquire land under the land acquisition act in 2008. On March 19, 2011, the board took the decision to drop the acquisition. I joined only on March 25, 2011. This decision of the board, taken before I joined, was forwarded to the government. How could I have been even remotely connected to that? I have worked with them (the government). They have a dirty tricks department.

While much of the campaigning has been door-to door, Arvind Kejriwal, who addressed several rallies here, has gotten into trouble for one of his speeches.

Accept money if given by BJP and Congress candidates, but vote only for AAP. If they are giving Rs 5,000, ask for Rs 10,000 as inflation has gone up.

News 18 reported that, the BJP’s state unit has submitted a written complaint while Congress leaders have urged the EC to take sup motu cognisance of the offense. The additional election commissioner also remarked that such a statement ought not to have been made given that the model code of conduct was in force.

Kejriwal has also been criticised for claiming that AAP was so clean that they did not have money to fight election in Goa and Punjab, despite announcing that they will campaign against the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.

We don't have a single penny to contest Punjab and Goa polls. Our bank account is empty. We are in power in Delhi for the last two years, we also could have minted money. But even two years down the line, we don't have it to fight polls

Despite a possible four way race, The India Today – Axis Poll predicts that BJP will retain power in the state with 20-24 seats.

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