Goan Roulette: Eight parties enter the fray for 40 seats

Goa is going to the polls in February 2022 with nearly eight parties in the fray for just 40 seats. The contest is already heating up with the entry of Trinamool Congress and Aam Aadmi Party that is trying to make its presence felt for the second time in the coastal state.

The elections are being seen as a grudge match between the Congress and the BJP. In the 2017 polls, the BJP didn’t perform well, winning only 13 seats, while the Congress emerged as the single largest party with 17 seats. While the Congress claimed that the mandate was a vote for it, the BJP managed to pull the rug from under the Congress by forming the government along with regional parties and other Independent MLAs. To make matters worse, 10 MLAs of the Congress in Goa split in 2019 and joined the BJP.

The Congress claims that the general population, especially those who had voted for the Congress, are angry with the BJP over its ‘blatant horse trading’ and would overwhelmingly vote for the Congress this time. Goa Congress Chief Girish Chodankar is confident that the people of the state will vote for them. “Last time, the people had voted for the Congress, but the manner in which the mandate was stolen has not gone down well with the people and this time, we will come back to power with an even bigger mandate.”

TMC and AAP

The job for the Congress is not going to be easy thanks to the entry of the Trinamool Congress. The TMC has inducted former Goa chief minister and Congress leader Luizinho Faleiro into the party, tennis stars like Leander Paes have also joined the party and are expected to be given tickets and campaign for the party in Goa. The TMC’s entry queers the pitch for the Congress as it is being seen as the secular alternative to the BJP. The TMC’s narrative is vying to attract the Congress votebank that is opposed to the BJP. The TMC is bringing forth the argument of how it managed to stop the BJP’s juggernaut in the West Bengal polls and how it is best equipped to stop the saffron party from coming to power again. Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC has already put a team in place in Goa and has begun work on identifying issues, candidates and their weaknesses in the state. How big a splash the TMC will make in the state is doubtful considering that it is being perceived as being airdropped in the state just a few months before the polls. However, even if the TMC does not come to power, it is expected to make a dent in the Congress’ vote bank that will eventually help the BJP. For the Congress, matters have been queered by the Aam Aadmi Party making another foray into the state. Arvind Kejriwal and other AAP leaders have been campaigning in the state and true to their template, the AAP has already promised several freebies to the people of Goa if voted to power. While the AAP has spent more time in Goa cultivating people and raising relevant issues, it is being seen as weaker than the TMC when it comes to taking on the BJP.

BJP

The entry of the TMC and AAP might make things easier for the BJP; however, it’s still fighting an uphill battle in the state. Anti-incumbency is rife in the state, and there are complaints of corruption and lack of employment. Added to these, the Covid crisis has also cast the BJP in bad light. Many Goans died last year due to lack of hospital beds and the government was seen as being ineffective in handling the crisis. So much so that there was speculation that the BJP would change its chief minister Pramod Sawant before the polls. The BJP is trying to get in the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party in an alliance but party senior Sudin Dhavalikar is angry with the BJP after MGP MLAs were poached by the BJP in 2019. The MGP is seen as holding sway in at least 7-8 constituencies in the state.

Small State

Goa is spread over just 3,702 square km, which means that the constituencies are small and the voter base low compared to other states. Each constituency approximately has only 20,000-25,000 voters. So, an independent taking even 3,000 votes in a constituency will make a huge difference. The Church also plays a role, with local parishes wielding a lot of influence among the people and exhorting them to vote for certain candidates. Goa has the dubious reputation of winning candidates jumping ship from one party to another, so the elections results do not reflect who will eventually come to power.



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