Explained: Why Congress lost Goa and BJP's clever strategy worked
The worst damage to Congress was caused by TMC, AAP and Revolutionary Goans. Senior journalist K R Sreenivas examines.
It was a day of big disappointments for the Congress across the country in all the five states that went to the polls. In Goa, the BJP improved over its 2017 performance to win 20 of the 40 seats much against expectations, especially since the opposition parties played out a perceived strong anti-incumbency vote factor. The Congress and its ally Goa Forward put together won 12 seats.
In the run-up to the elections, psephologists and experts had called the elections too close to call and exit polls mostly had predicted higher numbers for Congress, while some agencies had put equal numbers for both parties.
One of the major factors disrupting Congress's calculations is the severe division of votes in a multi-cornered contest. The Congress did not seem to calculate for the damage the smaller parties could cause its campaign, particularly in Salcete which has been a bastion of the party.
Soon after the results became clear, the BJP sought an appointment with Governor P S Sreedharan Pillai to stake a claim to form the government on Thursday itself. The appointment is yet to take place. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant claimed support of all three Independent candidates for the party to form the government.
A determined Congress gave it all in 2022 not to miss the bus this time and was confident of winning 21 seats, but the mandate was in favour of the BJP. While the BJP won 20 seats, Congress had to settle with 11 seats and its pre-election ally Goa Forward one seat.
One of the disappointments was the performance of Trinamool Congress which drew a blank despite being led by former two-time Chief Minister Luizinho Faleiro. When TMC entered the fray, its political strategist Prashant Kishore drew up the plan, but due to controversy created by some senior TMC leaders, Kishore backed out of the campaign.
In Navelim constituency, despite a strong fight, TMC's Valanka Alemao, daughter of another former Chief Minister Churchill Alemao lost the election due to a three-way split of votes between Congress Avertano Furtado, Valanka and Aam Aadmi Party’s Pratima Coutinho. Pratima was leading for a long time but lost out in the end and the unlikely winner was BJP's Ulhas Tuenkar by 430 votes. Valanka came second.
In Benaulim, TMC's Churchill Alemao, another former chief minister lost to Venzy Veigas of AAP by a margin of 1,271 votes. Congress's Benjamin Dias too gave a tough fight.
The BJP had a vote share of 33.3 per cent, Congress 23.5 per cent, MGP 7.6 per cent, Others which include Revolutionary Goans and Trinamul Congress and Independents 19,4 per cent, AAP 6.8 per cent, AITC 5.21 per cent, NCP 1.14 per cent, NOTA 1.12 per cent and Goa Forward Party 1.84 per cent.
Most candidates who defected the Congress to join the BJP post the 2017 polls were shown the door by the electorate, particularly in Salcete.
All of BJP’s popular leaders including chief minister Pramod Sawant retained the Sanquelim seat winning by a margin of 386 votes against his nearest rival Darmesh Saglani of the Congress. Vishwajit Rane from Valpoi defeated his nearest rival Tukaram Bharat Parab of Revolutionary Goans Party by 8,085 votes.
BJP's Atanasio Babush Monserrate won from the prestigious Panaji seat defeating Late Manohar Parrikar’s son Utpal Parrikar, Independent, by 716 votes. Utpal gave a tough fight to Monserrate in a three-cornered fight, the other being Congress’s Elvis Gomes, a former Panaji Municipal Corporation Commissioner.
Mauvin Godhinho won on a BJP ticket from Dabolim defeating Congress's Captain Viriato Mendonca Fernandes by 1,570 votes. Rohan Khaunte of the BJP won from Porvorim defeating his nearest rival Sandeep Vazarkar of TMC by 7.950 votes. Kaunte had won from the constituency in 2012 and 2017 as an Independent candidate.
Deviya Vishwajit Rane, wife of Health Minister Vishwajit Rane of the BJP won from Poriem, a seat held by her father-in-law Pratapsinh Rane since 1990, by defeating Viswajit Rane (cousin of Health Minister) of the Aam Aadmi Party by 13, 943 votes.
In the 2022 elections, the MGP which quit the BJP alliance before the elections and joined hands with the TMC, and was expected to win five seats, were the biggest losers, winning just two seats.
Ramakrishna Sudhin Dawalikar won from Marcaim and Jit Vinayak Arolkar won from Mandrem, both defeating BJP candidates. MGP's Pandurang Deepak Dawalikar, brother of Sudhin, lost to BJP's Govind Shepu Gaude by 213 votes.
The Aam Aadmi Party which put up a creditable show opened its account in Goa with two seats. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) won one seat.
From the Congress, among the key winners are former chief minister Digambar Kamat in Margao defeating his nearest rival Babu Manohar Ajgaonkar by 7,794 votes, Michael Lobo defeating Joseph Sequeira of BJP by 4,979 votes. His wife Delilah Lobo won from Siolim defeating Dayanand Mandrekar of the BJP by 1,743 votes. Aleixo Sequeira of the Congress won from Nuvem defeating his nearest rival Arvind D’Costa of Revolutionary Goans Party. By 3,881 votes.
A setback for the BJP was the defeat of Chandrakant Babu Kavlekar in Quepem. His wife Savitri Chandrakant Kavelkar (Independent) lost in Sanguem to a BJP candidate.
Three Independent candidates Dr Chandrakant Shetye in Bicholim, Antonio Vas in Cortalim and Alexio Reginaldo Lourenco in Curtorim won the elections. The three Independents are likely to join the government.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Revolutionary Goans, a party funded by Goa NRIs, NCP, Shiv Sena in a few constituencies, have mostly cut into Congress votes. The worst damage to Congress was caused by TMC, AAP and Revolutionary Goans.
The Revolutionary Goans surprised everyone by winning one seat as well at St Andre, the winner being Viresh Borkar. Revolutionary Goans has done better than AAP in terms of vote share across various seats in Goa. The Revolutionary Goans are also likely to join the government.
BJP's strategy managers led by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and former Maharashtra CM and party in-charge of Goa Devendra Fadnavis worked closely in every individual constituency and ensured the victory of BJP contestants and defeat of Congress candidates, cleverly.
Despite his busy schedule of campaigning in the key states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Manipur, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave enough time for BJP leaders from Goa and discussed strategies and engaged all sections of Goa's society in the run-up to the campaign.
Modi also met with CM Pramod Sawant and other senior leaders days before counting of votes to indicate the importance he holds on Goa. Amit Shah met with all important leaders from Goa BJP and also campaigned door-to-door in Goa and addressed at least eight rallies. Modi had addressed one rally at Mapusa.
In 2017, the BJP under Late Manohar Parrikar won 13 seats but managed to form a government on the backing of three MGP and three Goa Forward legislators. Two other Independent candidates too backed the BJP, thus giving it a simple majority. Later the Congress which had 17 legislatures saw an exodus, first by Vishwajeet Rane who was absent during the floor test when late Manohar Parrikar proved his majority on the floor of the house.
Soon after the BJP won the floor test, Rane quit as an MLA and quit from the Congress. He contested again on a Sattari Yuva Morcha from Valpoi and supported the BJP government. Soon he joined the government as Health Minister.
In July 2017, 10 legislators of the Congress quit the party and formed a separate group, thus escaping the anti-defection law. They then supported the BJP, thus giving BJP 27 seats minus the Goa Forward’s three MLAs and two Independent MLAs. This included Leader of Opposition Chandrakant `Babu’ Kavlekar. This stunned the Congress.
Later, Curtorim MLA Alexio Reginaldo Lourenco suddenly resigned from the Congress stunning the party and leaving it with just two MLAs in the House from the 17 they won in the elections. Only two former chief ministers, Digambar Kamat and Pratapsinh Rane remained in the party.
BJP will do well to ensure that no one will pull the rug from under their feet and will work on various combinations to get enough numbers while forming the government.
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