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Defection, Poaching Rampant in Goa

Manoj Varghese Manoj Varghese
31 Jan 2022
According to opinion polls, Goa might witness a hung Assembly with the BJP emerging as the single largest party followed by the AAP and the Congress.

Defection and the politics of poaching have become synonymous with Indian politics, and Goans are the most affected ones. The storm is unwilling to calm down, identifying who is with which party. It is a matter of time to see if the decision will be announced through the ballots and not in Raj Bhavan. After enjoying the power in the government with the BJP, many former Congress leaders have returned to their parent party owing to the pressure from the local voters during this poll time.

Several political leaders from the Congress party, Goa Forward Party (GFP) and NCP have joined the TMC and many BJP leaders have defected to the Congress party. Congress has made an alliance with the GFP, whereas TMC has joined hands with the Maharashtra Gomantak Party (MGP). The elected leaders are so prone to defection that the Congress-GFP alliance made its candidates to march to a temple, a mosque and a church and make a vow before filing their nomination papers. It all started with the former Goa Chief Minister Luizinho Faleiro (70), who represents Navelim in the Assembly, tendering his resignation as a Congress MLA and joining the Trinamool Congress.

The latest blow for the Congress came from Poriem, where the former CM and its candidate Pratapsinhh Rane (87) has stepped back from contesting against his daughter-in-law. Rane has been an 11-time MLA from this constituency. He is the longest serving CM of Goa. His son Vishwajeet Rane is a minister in the BJP-led Govt in Goa after having defected from Congress in 2017.

According to opinion polls, Goa might witness a hung Assembly with the BJP emerging as the single largest party followed by the AAP and the Congress. Responding to the question of what would be AAP's strategy if such a scenario arises, the AAP convenor said, "The AAP is very clear that we can win this election by ourselves. But if the situation occurs then we will take any strategic decision on the post-poll alliance to keep BJP out of power.”

In the 2014 parliamentary polls, BJP got 48 %, the Congress got 40 % and AAP and TMC got 3 % votes. In the 2017 Assembly polls, BJP procured 32.5 %, Congress 28.4 % and AAP got 6.3 %. When it came to the 2019 general elections, BJP won 51 %, Congress 43 % and the AAP secured 5 % of the votes.

All is not well within the BJP too. Internal fighting is at its peak. Former CM and head of the BJP manifesto committee Lakshmikant Parsekar has quit. Utpal Parrikar, the son of Manohar Parrikar, former Goa Chief Minister and Union Defence Minister, has left the party to contest as an Independent candidate from Panjim.

“My two years’ contribution towards the BJP has gone in vain. And, I am left with no choice but to contest the Assembly polls for the values my father believed upon. I will be contesting as an Independent candidate from Panjim,” said Utpal Parrikar. Such was the image of Manohar Parrikar that the non-BJP parties like AAP, Shiv Sena and NCP came out openly in the support of Utpal. At a time when the political leaders are to be measured as to who is more corrupt or more communal, the values of former Chief Minister are well accepted by all the parties. Manohar Parrikar was a tall leader with an acceptability among both Hindus and Christians.

BJP MLA Wilfred D’sa resigned from his post and the party, stating that he will contest the upcoming elections as an independent. D’sa had won the Nuvem seat on a Congress ticket in 2017 but had defected to the BJP in 2019 with nine other Congress MLAs. He said, “Our constituency is a Catholic-dominated one. It was my supporters’ demand that I contest independently.”

Goan leaders have messed up their career joining the parties for a position, money or have made a compromise with their ideology. The leaders are switching from one party to another allured by the promise of position or money. Congress has suffered the most with its leaders switching over to other parties after having emerged as the single largest party in the 2017 elections. 

As per Sanjay Raut of Shiv Sena, a lot of effort had been made to form an alliance like that of it in Maharashtra, but the Congress didn’t budge. And, a pre-poll alliance could not be materialized. Similarly, TMC made repeated attempts to have a patch-up with the Congress, but in vain. Mahua Moitra of TMC said, “Congress should not behave like an emperor.”

However, P Chidambaram, in-charge of Goa, said, “We could not reach a consensus for an alliance with NCP-Shiv Sena, although some adjustments were initiated. So, we remain to be good friends. There was no concrete offer from TMC and they were engaged in poaching Congress leaders. BJP has poached upon 15 of the 17 Congress MLAs who had won in the last Assembly polls. We were unable to keep our flocks together in 2017 and 2019. We have learnt from our mistakes and it will not be repeated in 2022. We are wiser after the previous elections. Out of 37 Congress candidate 30 of them have been recommended by the block-level Congress leaders,” he added.

Out of the 40 Assembly seats in Goa, North Goa has 19 seats. BJP is dominant here with a Christian population of 16%. Whereas, South Goa with 21 seats has a Christian population of 36%. This time, Christian votes will be decisive. An all-out effort has been made by the parties to woo the Christian voters; Prime Minister visited Pope in Rome; Mamata came in support of Missionaries of Charity; Kejriwal hosted a Christmas party in Delhi; and so on.

The Aam Aadmi Party promised that the chief ministerial candidate Amit Palekar will be from the Bhandari community. He is a well-known lawyer from Goa and has a clean image. Also, they announced that the Deputy CM will be from the Catholic community. After Arvind Kejriwal retained his power for the third time in Delhi in 2020, the party decided its mega expansion plan. This time around, the party is fighting elections in Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

According to reports, out of 11,00,000 voters in the state, around 3,50,000 voters belong to the Bhandari Samaj, which is around 30 % of the total voter base. Goa also has a Christian voter base of around 26 per cent. In some of the constituencies, this percentage is as high as 80 per cent. Eventually, it becomes clear that if both the Bhandaris and Christians back a party — then over 50 per cent voter base becomes secured.

As opinion polls hand over the mandate once again to the incumbent BJP, one must not forget that Goa’s political sands are unpredictable. There is undercurrent that is often misread. In the early 60s, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was surprised when Goa did not vote the Congress to power and instead went with a local party, and is reported to have remarked: ‘Ajeeb hai yeh Goa ke log’.

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