The Goa government led by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has pledged to provide 16,000 liters of free water each month to every household starting September 1. As the water bill for nearly 300,000 families is expected to drop to zero, the state government will lose monthly income. from Rs 11.5 crore. This is the first time that a government in Goa has announced gifts for its people, a clear reminder of the approach of parliamentary elections.
Goa is due to elect a new government in February 2022, and all of the state’s political parties have started looking for allies. As the BJP assesses the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) ‘s willingness to join forces, all eyes are on a possible alliance between Congress and the Goa Forward Party (GFP). The GFP seems to want, but the Congress, true to its nature, is stalling.
While GFP chairman Vijai Sardesai claims to have been informed by Dinesh Gundu Rao, Congress official for Goa, that the party’s high command has given the alliance the green light, according to state president Girish Chodankar , the party leaders have not yet received any communication on this subject. Meanwhile, on August 16, an impatient Sardesai announced the GFP candidates in four constituencies: Mandrem, Haldona, Saint Andre and Thivim. “The Congress should appeal to the alliance of Ganesh Chaturthi (September 10),” says Sardesai. Political observer Rajan Desai believes that a Congress-GFP front could reduce the BJP’s chances of returning to power after a 10-year reign. “If they fight together, Congress-GFP could seriously damage the BJP in South Goa where minority voters are dominant,” Desai said.
Congress and the GFP found themselves in a similar situation in 2017, when ongoing alliance talks derailed after Luizinho Faleiro, then state congressman, broke his promise at the last moment and aligned Jose D ‘Silva against Sardesai of GFP in his territory, Fatorda. In response, the GFP backed an independent, Edwin Souza, against Faleiro in Navelim and Sardesai eventually extended the support of his party’s three MPs to the BJP, making the late Manohar Parrikar the chief minister, ignoring the request of the Congress of an alliance after the poll. .
This time around, Congress appears to have learned a lesson from then-Secretary-General Digvijaya Singh’s inability to form a government in 2017, despite being the state’s largest party. He appointed P. Chidambaram as an observer and entrusted him with the task of developing a voting strategy. The former Union finance minister also refrained from committing to the party’s alliance with the GFP. “We are preparing in the 40 constituencies. There is no question of alliance yet, ”Chidambaram told reporters in Panaji on August 26.
To create a wedge between Congress and the GFP, the BJP inducted Congress bloc president Fatorda Piedade Noronha and President Joseph Silva into its ranks on August 18. The loss of Noronha, who belongs to the Scheduled Tribe, a community with 25 percent of the vote in Fatorda, is a major setback for the party. Potential BJP candidate Damodar Naik also represents the ST community. If Congress and the GFP could resolve their differences in Fatorda, the alliance could give the BJP a tough fight. If not, the BJP should take advantage of it again.
BJP on slippery ground
Union Minister of State for Tourism Shripad Naik said a BJP-MGP alliance could help avoid a split in the Hindu votes. The MGP has not ruled out the possibility of an alliance with the BJP or any other party. Its chairman Sudin Dhavalikar said the final decision will be made by the party’s central committee, adding that the MGP will contest 12 seats and support independents in some others. This could be seen as the party’s plan to go it alone.
Sawant is the first BJP CM to receive the support of two-thirds of the deputies. The BJP has 27 deputies and the support of an independent, Govind Gaude. The fact that the BJP took Goa seriously is evident from consecutive visits by National Party Chairman JP Nadda and General Secretary (organization) BL Santhosh in July.
Political observers believe Congress-GFP front could reduce BJP’s chances of returning to power after 10-year reign
The BJP has made it clear that it will run in the next election under Sawant’s leadership, but several ambitious ministers could create roadblocks. Health Minister Vishwajit Rane, Rajya member Sabha Pramod Tendulkar and BJP State President Sadanand Shet Tanavade threw their hats in the ring. In fact, at least three ministers, besides Rane, want election tickets for their respective wives. Deputy Chief Minister Chandrakant Kavlekar holds Sanguem constituency for his wife Savitri; Rane plans to line up his wife Divya from Poriem; port minister Michael Lobo claimed Siolim for his wife Delilah; and former minister Pandurang Madkaikar wants his wife Janet to replace him in Cumbarjua.
Savitri and Delilah are politically active – Savitri unsuccessfully contested the 2017 election on a congressional ticket to Sanguem, while Delilah is a member of the gram panchayat. Lobo could cause trouble for BJP candidates in Siolim and Saligao constituencies if his wife is not present since Siolim. Kavlekar also holds sway in four constituencies in South Goa and could hurt the BJP’s chances there. Plus, Divya is her husband Rane’s best shot at the Chief Minister’s chair. According to the plan, if she wins as an independent from Poriem, Rane could negotiate for the top position in exchange for her support in a likely tight competition.
Small parties in the fray
In 2017, as a new entrant into Goa politics, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) went blank despite intensive campaigning by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and a battery of influential people. This time, the AAP is considering an alliance with the MGP. During a visit to Goa in July, Kejriwal assured the people of the state of free electricity up to 300 units per month if his party is elected to power. The 2017 AAP chief ministerial candidate Elvis Gomes joined Congress in August. The party is now betting on Mahadev Naik, a former BJP minister who joined the AAP in July.
Revolutionary Goan, an organization led by former AAP leader Manoj Parab, has had a huge impact in North Goa, especially among young people. “Those who are new to politics are pure. The established leaders are strong but they have failed to craft development policies for Goa. Our goal is to empower young people, ”explains Parab. The revolutionary Goan will make his poll debut in 2022 and has the capacity to turn a few hundred Hindu votes in his favor, which is causing problems for the BJP.
Sensing that the path to power will be difficult, CM Sawant focuses on two topics close to the hearts of the Goan: iron ore mining and tourism. He says the newly incorporated Goa Mineral Development Corporation (GMDC) aims to provide jobs for 300,000 people. “The GMDC will start mining-related activities, such as the auctioning of several mining leases. The government will extract 20 million tonnes of ore… once it starts mining, it will continue to go uninterrupted, ”Sawant said. He also promised to write to the Union Home Office to request permission to land on charter flights in Goa before the start of the tourist season on October 1. If that happens, international tourists could reach Goa, breathing new life into the state’s dormant tourism sector. .
P. Chidambaram has been appointed by Congress to define a polling strategy (Photo by Chandradeep Kumar)
The local color
The BJP and Congress are considering alliances with smaller parties like the MGP and GFP, respectively, as these parties could determine the outcome of the ballot in multiple constituencies.
MAHARASHTRAWADI GOMANTAK PARTY (MGP): The oldest party in Goa after Congress, the MGP struggles to remain relevant in state politics. It ruled Goa in the 1980s but lost its luster after joining the BJP, a new entrant in the 1990s. However, loyal MGP voters – mostly upper castes and OBC Hindus – play a role. important in at least seven constituencies in North Goa – Mapusa, Dicholim, Mayem, Pernem, Mandrem, Marcaim and Priol.
GOA FORWARD PARTY (GFP): Launched in 2016, the GFP won three seats in 2017 in its first election. It is present in Margao and Fatorda in the south of Goa, as well as in Siolim and Saligao in the north of Goa. Prone to Congress, the GFP wants revenge on the BJP for the humiliating treatment inflicted on it in March 2018 when Prime Minister Pramod Sawant sacked GFP chief Vijai Sardesai from his cabinet.