By Kalyani Shankar
The battle lines for the assembly elections are drawn in the tiny state of Goa, which is going for polls early next year. The poll scene is likely to be crowded, with at least eight parties contesting. The ruling BJP and opposition Congress and some outside contenders like Trinamool Congress and Aam Admi Party are in the fray. This multi-cornered contest might result in fragmentation of the votes as no party would be in a position to get a majority.
Why do regional parties like the TMC and AAP eye Goa?
Firstly, parties such as the NCP, AAP, and TMC have national ambitions. But to be recognized as a national party, constitutionally, a party must have at least 2 percent representation in the Lok Sabha from four states, poll 6 percent of votes in the Assembly or Lok Sabha in at least four states, and has at least four MPs from any state.
Secondly, while Goa is the smallest state with just two Lok Sabha seats and a 40 member Assembly and as such cannot add significantly to the kitty of any party either in Parliament, the vote share counts.
Thirdly, Goa’s tiny constituency size does not need enormous resources for election. Also, language is not a barrier for most Goans who speak English.
Fourthly, those going with the aim of expansion, like Mamata Banerjee or Kejriwal, or even Sharad Pawar, are nursing prime ministerial ambitions.
Finally, the other parties smell a chance as Congress and the BJP are the only two main parties, and a third party has an opportunity to emerge as an alternative.
The elections will be fierce with issues ranging from the environment to mining and handling of covid. No party has any chief ministerial candidates so far.
The top leaders from the BJP, Congress, Trinamool Congress, and the AAP have already launched high-profile campaigns. Regional players like Goa Forward Party (GFP) and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) have also thrown in their hats.
The BJP will seek votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The other parties too have not announced chief ministerial candidates.
As for the Congress, the loss of former Goa chief minister Luizinho Faleiro to the TMC last month was a huge setback. The party is now down to four MLAs from 17, three of whom are ex-CMs of Goa – all spent forces.
The TMC has big ambitions to expand in Goa, with chief minister Mamata Banerjee visiting the state already to launch her campaign. Her adviser Prashant Kishore has been doing the groundwork.
The TMC has inducted several leaders in the last few weeks, including bureaucrat-turned-politician Elvis Gomes, former AAP convenor in Goa, and former East Bengal footballer Alvito D’Cunha, tennis stars like Leander Paes and former Congress leader Nafisa Ali. The TMC and AAP will only cut into the secular votes of Congress.
The AAP, too, has considerable political ambitions. It has been offering freebies like free electricity up to 300 units a month, 80 percent reservation for locals in private jobs, and an employment allowance for the tourism and mining sectors.
Kejriwal is trying to rope in MGP MLA Ramkrishna alias Sundin Dhavalikar. The MGP was once Goa’s ruling party, and the BJP entered Goan politics with its support. But after the BJP poached into the MGP, the party, has left the BJP alliance.
The upcoming assembly polls will not be easy for the BJP because of anti-incumbency. The disunity in the opposition might perhaps make things easier for the BJP. Corruption and anti-incumbency are the two crucial factors.
Countering AAP, the BJP has also promised free water to every home. It has also promised 10,000 new government jobs and has also launched the outreach programme, “Sarkar Tumchya Dari (government at your doorsteps).”
The Church also plays a role, with local parishes wielding much influence. Almost half of the BJP’s incumbent MLAs are Christians.
The BJP is keen to continue its Goa experiment to show that it is not an anti-minority party. The recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Rome when he hugged the Pope and also invited him is part of the BJP’s scheme for winning Goa.
The BJP is worried about the Shiv Sena and the Revolutionary Goans, a new party attracting the youth. The Sena plans to contest 22 Hindu-majority seats to hurt the BJP.
The poll tie-ups are going on, and the final picture will emerge only closer to the polls. The coalition is the only option for Goa if it does not vote for one party with a majority. The post-poll scenario is essential when all options are open to all players. Then the ‘Aya Ram Gaya Ram’ politics will begin. Small states are known for their political instability and defection politics. (IPA Service)