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Goa Election 2022: Show is not over yet; the numbers game is on

In Goa, everything is open. There could be more defections, there could be money play, there could be amusing political strategies and the show is not over yet, says senior journalist K R Sreenivas

Goa Election 2022 Exit Poll Show is not over yet; the numbers game is on
Panaji, First Published Mar 7, 2022, 8:53 PM IST

Elections in Goa has always amused onlookers. Just before elections, everyone jumps parties. And after election results, again, so many of them hop across parties. They just follow the wind, just like they did in 2017 when a determined BJP snatched away the government before the Congress could blink. The score was Congress 17 seats, BJP 14 seats, And 2022 looks no different. 

As soon as voting was done on February 14, hopeful CM candidates from the Congress and the BJP unashamedly started lobbying to make themselves the chief minister. Well, who is winning it this time? Nobody is sure. 

Also Read: Goa Election 2022 Exit Polls Projection: Hung Assembly Likely

While Congress had an advantage at the starting line, nobody can tell who will be the victor at the finishing line. Everybody including pollsters, analysts and the parties themselves are not sure what will be the final numbers. 

In the run-up to campaigning and voting day, analysts predicted the Congress will be closer to 20, just one short of a simple majority in the 40-member assembly. But with so much rumble-tumble, one is not sure the Congress will get 21 seats, a number that the BJP wrested in 2012 under late Manohar Parrikar. 

Adding to the amusement is the number of parties contesting the elections. While both the ruling BJP and the Congress do not have signed up any pre-election alliance partners, post voting day everyone is talking to everyone and strategizing who will be part of their bandwagon and who will get what portfolio in the event their party is in a position to form the next government. 

With so many parties that include the Maharastrawadi Gomanak Party (MGP), Aam Admi Party (AAP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and their Maharastra partner Shiv Sena, and the latest entrant the Trinamool Congress (TMC) led by Mamata Bannerjee which largely has breakaway Congress leaders, not to speak of Revolutionary Goans (RG), a party funded by NRI Goans, votes are being split and it could be advantage BJP. Thus there is a blur on the finish line. 

Like in 2017, if Congress gets three less than twenty seats and BJP is closer behind, attractive games are in order and it could spell the end of the Congress again. 

In 2017 at least 10 Congress legislators ditched the Congress and joined the BJP government. It started with senior Congressman Vishwajeet Rane joining the BJP government under the late Manohar Parrikar as Health and Family Welfare Minister. 

The BJP also roped in two legislators from the Goa Forward Party led by Vijay Sardesai, who was elected from Fatorda. Vijay Sardesai had formed the Goa Forward Party well before the 2017 elections after breaking away from the Congress. But soon after the 2017 election results, Sardesai decided to join the BJP government formed by the late Manohar Parrikar. 

Sardessai, a leader from South Goa, earned the wrath of the voters along with other defectors. 

South Goans, particularly from Salcete Taluka, are considered to be highly emotional and wanted a Congress government installed in Goa. But with Congress unable to form the government despite having won the highest number of seats in the elections, and letting go of an opportunity, frustrated the  Christian population of Goa who wanted to boot out the BJP. 

The voters abused the BJP for being 'opportunistic', and also gave a tongue lashing for Congress legislators and leaders for not being smart enough to form the government. The BJP played a smart game and formed the government at breakneck speed, indicating that the party had planned it out well. The Congress was caught napping. Many from the Congress defected and later, 10 MLAs joined the BJP, leaving the Congress with just two MLAs in the house. 

The voters later vowed to send all defectors home in the next elections and demanded that the party bring in fresh and credible faces in the 2022 elections. 

The Congress has fielded some good candidates, but this time it is feared that the split in votes due to multi-cornered contests, could snatch their chance from the jaws to form a government. 

Already, there is so much speculation in the surcharged atmosphere and March 10 could shatter many dreams. 

The BJP too is having its own problems after the demise of their stalwart late Manohar Parrikar. One also gets a sense that its incumbent chief minister, Pramod Sawant, is not so popular among its legislators and some of them allegedly worked against him during the election campaign and on voting day. 

The BJP, sources said, did call and speak to a few such leaders. Also, one senior legislator, Vishwajeet Rane, who had joined the party from the Congress soon after results were announced in 2017, is nursing the ambition of becoming the CM of the state. His father, Pratapsinh Rane, (83) was a powerful Congress chief minister in the mid-1990s and early 2000s. He was chief minister of Goa for a record six times, besides being the Leader of the Opposition. The Rane’s have their hold on Valpoi and Poreim in Sattari Taluka. 

But the senior Rane has retired from politics in the 2022 elections and made way for his daughter-in-law Divya Rane to contest from the Poreim seat which he has represented from 1990. Vishwajeet Rane (49 years) sees this election as an opportunity to become chief minister and is leaving no stone unturned, especially since BJP doesn’t have a stalwart. 

The BJP leadership in Delhi has shown its confidence in Pramod Sawant and are said to be unhappy with other MLAs trying to weaken the party by indulging in lobbying for themselves. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned at a rally in Mapusa, North Goa, Union Home Minister and principal strategist Amit Shah did aggressive campaigning in several parts of Goa and is said to be directly handling the strategy in Goa. 

Rane junior has been talking to several probable MLAs outside BJP to elicit their support for supporting him as the CM candidate. BJP managers are working overtime to finalise probable MLAs who could join to form an alliance. Both BJP leaders and Congress leaders are in touch with MGP’s Sudhin Dawlikar, who was part of the BJP government from 2012 onwards. Prior to 2012, the Dawlikar brothers, Sudhin and Deepak, were part of the Congress government headed by Digambar Kamat. 

At Panaji, a key assembly constituency, sitting MLA and minister Babush Monserrate, who quit the Congress to join the BJP after the byelections after Manohar Parrikar’s death, is not having it easy in the constituency. Monsarrate, who exited the Talegao constituency in favour of his wife Jennifer in the 2017 elections contested from Panaji constituency and lost to Sidharth Kuncolienkar.  

Monsarrate joined Goa Forward but in the byelections, he contested from Panaji and won as an Independent. He then joined the BJP government. This time he is contesting on a BJP ticket, but he has two newcomers including Utpal Parrikar, son of late Parrikar standing against him. Though Utpal may not win, he will cut into BJP’s vote bank in Panaji. Utpal, who was snubbed by the BJP when he sought to contest on a party ticket, decided to contest as an Independent. Thus, Congress’s Elvin Gomes, a former Panaji Municipal Commissioner, is nursing hopes of an upset win. 

Both the BJP and the Congress are now clear that it is going to be a close contest, especially because of heavy anti-incumbency but it is being countered with a huge split in votes. 

Leaders in Congress are not wanting to leave anything to chance. AICC in charge of Goa Dinesh Gundu Rao said that Congress is confident of forming a government and is in talks with various parties and Independents in case they are short of numbers. 

While Digambar Kamat is the front runner to become CM in case Congress forms a government, there are a few others nursing the ambition, mainly former minister in the BJP government, who hopped into the Congress before the elections, Michael Lobo who contested from Calangute. 

Lobo has campaigned for all candidates in Bardez Taluka including for his wife, Deliela Lobo who is contesting from Siolim opposite BJP’s Dayanand Mandrekar. Daleila is controlling four panchayats in Siolim and is a strong candidate herself. Michael Lobo is pitted against former Calangute Sarpanch Joseph Sequiera in Calangute. Sequeira joined the BJP when Lobo quit BJP in Calangute. 

Michael Lobo is also constantly travelling to Delhi to meet Congress top brass to lobby for the chief minister's post, sources said. However, the Congress is likely to back the candidature of Digambar Kamat, who himself defected from BJP and joined the Congress while topping Manohar Parrikar’s government in 2007.  

Kamat was made CM by the Congress overlooking the tall leader Pratapsinh Rane. Though Rane was dejected, he played along and he was made Speaker in the Legislative Assembly, and in 2021, when Congress lost the elections, he was made Leader of the Opposition. 

New players in Goa, TMC and Revolutionary Goans, apart from NCP and Goa Forward could all get one or two seats and MGP will also hope to get at least two to four seats. 

Former CM in a Congress regime, Churchill Alemao who is contesting on a TMC ticket from Benaulim, pitted against Benjamin Dais of Congress and Venzy Veigas of AAP. His daughter Valanka Alemao contesting from Navelim is fighting against Congress’s Avertano Furtado, and AAP’s Prathima Coutinho are having close battles too. Former CM Luzinho Faleiro who is leading TMC’s campaign in Goa may be able to turn Valenka’s fortunes, analysts said. 

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant is on record to say that the BJP will form the government on their own and in case they need numbers, there are Independents willing to join a possible BJP government. 

So, it comes down to who will have an upper hand in the elections and who will form the government and who will be the chief minister. In Goa, everything is open. There could be more defections, there could be money play, there could be amusing political strategies and the show is not over yet. The numbers game is on. 

(The author is a leading journalist. He was former Resident Editor of The Times of India, Goa and Hyderabad)

Also Read: Goa Election 2022: CM Pramod Sawant confident of BJP winning 22 out of 40 seats

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