Poll Diary: Political ‘tourists’ entertaining Goans

A popular joke that made the rounds of social media this week was of a tourist asking for directions to the Morjim beach in Goa

Poll Diary: Political ‘tourists’ entertaining Goans

Aditya Anand

A popular joke that made the rounds of social media this week was of a tourist asking for directions to the Morjim beach in Goa.

He was asked to take a left turn from the hoarding with Mamata Banerjee, head straight past the banner of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal before taking another left and a right at two more hoardings of TMC and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Both tourism and ‘political tourism’ are booming in the state, says Chief Minister Pramod Sawant sardonically. In about two months, Goa will elect a new 40-member legislative assembly and all one can see along the highways, main roads and prominent alleys are political banners, mostly of these two parties. While TMC has inducted former chief minister Luizinho Faleiro and nominated him promptly to the Rajya Sabha, BJP too has been in the game, inducting former Saligao Goa Forward Party MLA Jayesh Salgaonkar and the Ponda MLA and former Congress CM Ravi Naik.

BJP has been in power for the past 10 years and has given the state three chief ministers. It is seen to be battling anti-incumbency and fighting to remain in power. The Congress which is down from 17 MLAs in 2017 to three as on December 8, is confident it will cross the majority mark this time with a set of fresh, young faces replacing the ‘dead wood.’

The MGP with brothers, Sudin and Deepak Dhavalikar at the helm, promises a formidable fight in 12 seats. The party, which had three MLAs in the legislative assembly in 2017, has been reduced to a single MLA in Sudin Dhavalikar, who holds the distinction of being dropped from two successive BJP-led governments in the last decade.

The MGP and TMC have announced a pre-poll alliance that is seen as significant by poll pundits. The Revolutionary Goans fighting the elections under the aegis of the Goa Suraj Party, the NCP Shiv Sena and Independents are the others who will put up their candidates in the fray

Poll Diary: Political ‘tourists’ entertaining Goans

The local Goan is confused. His afternoon siesta these days is regularly broken by phone calls with recorded messages but often without disclosing the identity of the political party. If the voice signs off promising a Navi Sakal or a new dawn, it’s assumed to be from the TMC. Goans who gather at the village market to buy their fish are generally a politically aware lot. But this time they are still confused because their favourite politicians are still in the process of jumping ship.

Analysts say large-scale recruitment being carried out by the BJP is designed to project that it is still the hot favourite to retain power in 2022. The recruitment spree is often antagonising its own workers.

Goa, where winning margins are often 800 to 1000 votes, unlike the rest of India, is known for voting for a candidate and not so much for the party. Some political observers say Goa might this time go back to a hung assembly.

TMC’s entry is seen to have consolidated Christian voters for the Congress in the south Goa district, which has 21 assembly seats and a Christian population of about 36 per cent. Political analyst Cleofato Coutinho explains that after the TMC’s entry, those who were staunchly against the BJP have begun to see both AAP and TMC as vote-spoilers. “Though this perception existed for AAP earlier, the entry of the TMC has only reinforced the suspicion,” he says.

In Goa the individual has a higher chance of getting elected if he has good reach than parties. People here want to vote on the basis of the issues they face, says the owner of a popular Goan eatery in South Goa, pointing to the higher literacy in the state.

Goa Pradesh Congress Committee President Girish Chodankar exudes confidence that his party will secure 35 per cent vote share and win 24 to 26 seats. “In the last assembly elections our vote share was 28 per cent, with the votes of Goans we are strongly moving towards our target of 35% to get 23-26 seats,” he claims.

Goa Independent MLA in the current Goa assembly from Sanguem Prasad Gaonkar had announced his support to the TMC last month. But Gaonkar had a change of heart after meeting Rahul Gandhi along with Goa Forward Party leader Vijai Sardesai. “My observation is that the TMC model is not a fit for Goa. I studied their overall concept for a month and wasn’t convinced,” he says.

Sardesai on the other hand is upbeat over his pre-poll alliance with the Congress party. Having first rejected TMCs offer to merge his party with TMC, the former deputy chief minister says there is need for a Team Goa to take on the BJP. “Congress is leading the alliance and I am just a part of it to give the state a new direction,” says Sardesai, whose support along with MGP’s played a crucial role in installing late Manohar Parrikar as the CM in 2017.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)

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