Resort politics ahead of Goa verdict; Congress, BJP try to keep flock together
Goa is a typical example of a pre-election contest and a post result strategy. Senior journalist K R Sreenivas explains.
With Goa exit polls showing a repeat more or less of the 2017 election results in 2022, the focus has turned on possible chief ministerial candidates, which could make or break a government formation. Both parties in contention are said to be working overtime to poach possible winners in the polls held on February 14 to form a government in the state.
In 2017, the BJP swept the Congress under the carpet despite the latter winning 17 of the 40 seats, just four short of the majority mark. The BJP had won 13 seats but quickly gobbled up the numbers to form the government.
The Congress and its voters, particularly in Salcete Taluka were frustrated. The MGP MLAs, some dissident Congress leaders, Goa Forward MLAs, and Independent MLAs joined the BJP bandwagon,
When it became clear that the Congress would not be able to make a comeback, more than 10 Congress MLAs defected to the BJP and joined the government. The grand old party was left with only two MLAs, Pratapsinh Rane and Digambar Kamat, both former CMs.
Now again, the Congress and the BJP have started the game to gain the support of possible winners from other political parties to make for a shortfall in numbers.
Congress has dispatched Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president D K Shivakumar to join AICC in charge of Goa Dinesh Gundu Rao with the express task to install a Congress government in Goa and all the party contestants have been holed up in a resort.
Former Union Minister P Chidambaram is also camping in Goa. It was D K Shivakumar, who taught the BJP a lesson in its own coin by pipping BJP in Karnataka to form a Congress-JD(S) alliance in 2018.
The Congress which claims that they will win 21 seats despite exit polls showing otherwise, and thus form the government, is not leaving anything to chance this time. Digambar Kamat, who was chief minister from 2007 to 2012 is the front runner for the post. Pratapsinh Rane has retired from politics.
Michael Lobo, who quit the BJP to contest on a Congress ticket along with his wife in the 2022 elections has met with the Congress leadership in Delhi at least twice to lobby for himself to be the CM. Congress has other dark horses too who are interested in the chair. Lobo may not find favour so soon since he is a newbie to the party. But there is precedence when Digambar Kamat himself joined the Congress after quitting the BJP government led by late Manohar Parrikar in 2007 and was made chief minister pipping six-time CM Pratapsinh Rane.
Thanks to large-scale defection in 2017, the party has many new faces and also some old warhorses who have remained in the party. Closely supporting the Congress are the Goa Forward Party. Other possible parties which could offer the Congress support include the MGP-TMC alliance and the NCP-Shiv Sena alliance.
On the other hand, the BJP is expected to be aggressive. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who was fielded from Sanquelim, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday to apprise him of the possibilities and to tighten its strategy in Goa. The BJP candidates too are holed up discussing the nitty-gritty.
BJP is talking to the MGP seeking their support post-election results. The MGP led by the minister in the BJP government Ramakrishna Sudhin Dawalikar, whose party fought the 2022 elections in alliance with TMC, is waiting to see which way the wind is blowing. The MGP was part of the Congress government between 2007-12, and the party was part of the ministry led by Manohar Parrikar’s BJP in 2012-17 and 2017-22.
The party continued in the government when Pramod Sawant became chief minister after Parrikar's demise.
The MGP went out of the BJP alliance to contest in alliance with TMC owing to its differences with CM Pramod Sawant. Even as BJP is holding parleys with MGP before the results are being announced, the Dawlikar brothers, Sudhin and Deepak Dawalikar have put out a pre-condition for support and they have told the BJP leadership clearly that they would not support the BJP if Pramod Sawant is the CM.
This has put the BJP in a quandary. At least three leaders in the BJP have since put out their hand to be the CM candidate and are said to be talking both to BJP leadership and to the Dawalikar brothers. The MGP could end up winning at least four constituencies. Sawant is a doctor by profession and is associated with the RSS. The MGP too has been associated with the RSS.
Reports surfaced that the RSS is doing back-channel talks with MGP to elicit the support of MGP for a possible BJP government formation.
Among those who are working overtime to become the CM are Vishwajeet Rane, who joined the BJP government after quitting Congress in 2017. The other two nursing the ambition and lobbying with the BJP leadership are Mauvin Godinho, a former minister and Deputy Speaker of the BJP government, and Deputy Chief Minister Chandrakant 'Babu' Kavlekar.
While Mauvin's contention is that he is the senior-most leader in the party, Kavlekar being the Deputy CM feels he should be the automatic choice in the event Pramod Sawant is unable to get support for his candidature from possible alliance partners.
Former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis is in-charge of Goa for the BJP. There is more drama going on. Fadnavis tweeted that he has been detained by Mumbai Police on Wednesday, a day prior to the election results. He has been leading the demand for the resignation of Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik who has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has been directly handling the election strategy in Goa. The BJP leadership, including Prime Minister Modi, are engaging party MLAs in Goa including all CM contenders. Those nursing ambitions have already met with the top leadership during the last week in Delhi.
The BJP has support from Revolutionary Goans, but the party may not be able to win a seat, though analysts say they could have damaged Congress chances in a few seats.
The BJP leaders are also talking to possible independent candidates, apart from MGP and are even talking to Aam Aadmi Party. Even the Congress leaders are talking to AAP in Goa. In case AAP does win a seat or two, it will be interesting to note whom will the AAP go with.
The Goa Forward Party led by Vijay Sardesai which had joined the BJP government in 2017, quit midway. But the BJP leaders are trying to woo Vijay Sardesai as well. Though Sardesai had wowed to defeat the BJP in alliance with the Congress.
Goa has witnessed a history of defections and never has ideology come in the way. Many candidates who win on a particular party ticket defect to the ruling dispensation. Thus, even a TMC candidate could jump ship to join the Congress or the BJP as in the past.
Goa is a typical example of a pre-election contest and a post result strategy. Soon after exit polls, results were made public, both the Congress and BJP have been talking with their candidates to chalk out strategies once results are announced. To each, his own.