BJP on backfoot in Goa

Emerging from a 10-year-rule that gave Goa three chief minister’s, the BJP in Goa appears to be on the backfoot with barely a month to go before the ensuing assembly elections in the coastal state

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant (Photo Courtesy: IANS)
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant (Photo Courtesy: IANS)

Aditya Anand

Emerging from a 10-year-rule that gave the State three chief ministers, the BJP in Goa appears to be on the backfoot with barely a month to go before the ensuing assembly elections in the coastal state. With not a single list of candidates released as yet and 4 MLAs, including 3 from the Catholic minority community, having resigned in the past few days, the BJP in Goa appears to be unable to explain much, neither to its own karyakartas nor to the larger electorate it will face.

Political experts say that unlike the other poll-bound states, where the BJP leadership has a better control over its MLAs, in Goa, things are quite different with the party having self-created a problem by ‘pampering’ some, like Bardez taluka strongman Michael Lobo, to grow beyond the canvas and become larger than life.

In Margao for instance, differences within the local unit saw a party candidate (unofficially declared) open an election office and begin his campaign with Union Minister Piyush Goel in attendance back off from the race within a few days. This has only strengthened the position of opponent and sitting MLA, former Congress chief minister Digambar Kamat. In capital Panaji, the party had to hold a secret ballot of votes to conclude whether it should nominate Congress import and sitting MLA Babush Monseratte, who has levelled serious corruption allegations against the present government or Utpal, the elder son of the late Manohar Parrikar, who has already begun campaigning without a nomination.

In another development, Congress leader and Poriem MLA Pratapsingh Raoji Rane was granted a lifetime cabinet minister status which many see as a ploy to desperately ensure the longest-serving legislator retire from public life. Rane, 82, has already been declared as the Congress candidate.

Lobo, who resigned from the Dr. Pramod Sawant government this week, has since joined the Congress Party along with his wife for whom he had been lobbying for a ticket from the BJP but was denied. While the ruling dispensation has claimed that Lobo had mentally long gone from the party with only his physical presence being felt, his actual departure is expected to be felt by its candidates, most of whom have won earlier with Lobo’s blessings and support.

“With Calangute MLA Michael Lobo having gone, a lot of time and energy of the BJP will be spent in Bardez taluka, of which he was looked upon as a political strongman. His departure has actually upset the political fortunes of candidates like Rohan Khaunte, who has joined the BJP after thoroughly opposing it in the recent past and Jayesh Salgaonkar in Saligao who switched from the Goa Forward Party. This has also affected the plans of Pravin Arlekar, who has moved from the MGP to the BJP in Pernem,” says Dr Manoj Kamat, an academician and political analyst.

All of these new entrants in the BJP have been directly or indirectly supported by Lobo who has a good amount of influence on all these constituencies. “This is very difficult for the BJP to digest, though they are claiming that it was expected and they were prepared. It seems that they are absolutely disturbed and they could not do anything. They knew that it was happening but couldn't contain the damage. Neither they are able to explain it to the voters about what they are doing,” says Dr Kamat.

Observers believe that growing unemployment, rising prices of essential commodities and rampant corruption during the BJP government’s 10 years in power have contributed to the anti-incumbency. To make matters worse, sitting BJP MLAs have raised the question of scams in the PWD and Health Departments presided by their own party colleagues over filling of vacancies leading to a probe.

“The BJP is trying to show development by way of highways and bridges that have been built and are being built. All this has been done with central government funds, while the Goa government never applied its mind to improve its fiscal condition and the living standards of the poor people,” observes political commentator Cleofato Almeida Coutinho.

Coutinho recalls that the BJP had come to power in 2012 on the promise of bringing in change. “They were promising to cleanse the system. But this is where the BJP has failed miserably. You know, that actually means the last many years you have been fooling the people. And then all these acts of, you know, acts of commission and omission that BJP did for the last five years, I feel BJP has exposed its real face,” he says.

Political pundits believe that in the future, the present situation of its MLAs who defected from the Congress in the name of development is such that it will send a strong signal to the prospective MLAs who get elected now. “Defections have never done anything good for the current majority in this assembly. All defectors now fear being rejected by people, and are also already finding it difficult in getting a BJP ticket. They have lost credibility. All these so-called top leaders today waiting in a queue for their tickets shows the level of this particular people and how they have degraded themselves in society,” says Dr Kamat.

Despite all this appearing to go against it in the runup to the February 14 elections, however, the Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant continues to believe in BJP's victory as he says he is confident of winning 22 seats.

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