March 09, 2014

GOA & LOK SABHA 2014


WILL IT BE EVEN-STEVEN IN GOA YET AGAIN?



In 2012, the BJP created history in the small yet beautiful state of Goa as it crossed the half way mark on its own, winning a whopping 21 seats. The party had indeed played its cards well. While the incumbent Congress-NCP regime in the state was fighting charges of failing to curb illegal mining, the saffron outfit made the right moves. First, it entered into a pre-poll agreement with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) which has a solid vote bank in the central talukas of the state. Also, Parrikar extended an olive branch to the powerful Catholic minority in Goa whom he had angered in his earlier term. At the same time, the Congress made a blunder by giving tickets to multiple candidates from the political families. After having governed the state for about two years, the Lok Sabha polls are an acid test for the former IIT alumni. In the last two General elections, both the UPA and the NDA won a seat each from the beach state. It will be interesting to see whether the BJP under Parrikar will be able to reverse this trend and storm the tiny state.

ISSUES

(1) Local versus National: With the BJP being in power for nearly two years now, the performance of the Manohar Parrikar government is going to be a key electoral issue before the 2014 General Elections. In his third term, there have been certain positives and few negatives too. Several schemes introduced by him including the Ladli Lakshmi scheme, providing an assistance of Rs 1,000/- to housewives with an annual household income of less than three lakh, another programme under which unemployed youth would get a monthly dole, the continuation of the cyber scheme and controlling the prices of fuel in the state have been lauded. At the same time, the rebellion of MLA Vishnu Wagh, the impasse over mining, the regime's U-turn over the Medium of Instruction at the primary level, its failure to cancel licenses of casinos and the recent strike by taxi drivers in the state may hurt the saffron party's prospects. 

While mixed signals are coming regarding the regime in Panaji from the people on the ground, there is no ambiguity about how the masses feel about the UPA II at the Centre. The Manmohan Singh government has failed on all accounts be it corruption, economic development, foreign affairs or defence. The BJP's poll campaign will certainly revolve around highlighting the myriad failures of the Congress led government in New Delhi. At the same time, the INC is expected to focus on local issues to counter the Parrikar government.

(2) The ban over Mining: Illegal mining in the state was probably the biggest issue during the 2012 Goa legislative polls. The BJP had accused the then Chief Minister Digamber Kamat of being involved in the multi-crore scam. Based on an affidavit filed by Prashant Bhushan and others, the Supreme Court banned mining in Goa in late 2012. Considering that mining and allied sectors are one of the pillars of the state economy, the thousands affected by the ban are feeling the pinch. In a rally in Panjim early this year, BJP's PM nominee Narendra Modi has promised to revoke the ban if he is elected to power. Even the Governor lashed out at the Centre earlier this week for failing to provide a special economic package to the state to help people affected by the Court's order.

(3) The Demand for Special Status: As Goa was a former Portuguese colony, the culture here is distinct from most other parts of the country. However, in recent years, there has been a heavy influx of people coming into the beach state from other parts of the country. Besides, a large number of non-Goans and foreigners have started buying property here. This is led to fear amongst the local that they will become a minority in their own state and lose their identity. As such, time and again demands for Special status for Goa have been raised by politicians across party lines. CM Parrikar has promised to fulfill this demand in case a NDA government comes to power in New Delhi. You can certainly expect this emotive issue to come up during the elections.

(4) The Catholic Votes: The Christians account for nearly 26 percent of the total population in the state. As such, their votes matter a lot. In fact, one of the reasons for BJP to do exceedingly well in 2012 was the backing it received from the community. Earlier, Parrikar had repented for the mistakes he had done in his earlier term including cancelling the public holiday for Good Friday which had alienated the Catholics. Also, the saffron party fielded several Catholic candidates across the state. It will be interesting to see if the community will still be with the BJP or go back to the Congress, especially after the elevation of Narendra Modi.


CONTENDERS 

(1) The BJP: After crossing the half way mark on its own in the state elections, you can expect the BJP to sweep the two seats in Goa. The CM Manohar Parrikar has an extremely clean image. Moreover, the fact that he has graduated the prestigious IIT-Bombay adds more value. Over a period of time, he has proved to be one of the best administrators in the country. The saffron outfit has been the dominant player in North Goa where its candidate Shripad Naik has won multiple times. However, can the BJP wrest back the South Goa seat from the Congress is the big question. Considering the significant Catholic population, wining the Marmagao seat might be a little difficult for the party.

(2) The Congress: At present, Francisco Sardinha of the INC represents the South Goa seat in the Lower House. After being reduced to mere nine seats in last state elections, it will certainly be an uphill task for the grand old party to win even a single seat from here. However, if it can win back the trust of the Catholic community then things will change. Another factor to note is whether the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will fight the elections in Goa with a pre-poll agreement with the Congress like in neighboring Maharashtra. If the alliance does not go through then both the constituents of the UPA are bound to doom in Goa.

(3) Others: The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) which fought the state polls in an alliance with the BJP has not yet made its stand clear. Considering the clout of the powerful Dhawalikar brothers in the Priol-Marcaim region, it will be good for the NDA if they can convince the MGP to refrain from contesting. Former Tourism minister Mickky Paccecho's Goa Vikas Party (GVP) too has strong presence in parts of Southern Goa. An understanding with him will help gain some Christian votes. The Aam Admi Party (AAP) got a big boost when two of the state's most prominent personalities - musician Remo Fernandes and activist Dr. Oscar Rebello joined it. The candidates they choose will decide if AAP can open its account here. Former CM Dayanad Narvekar's Goa Democratic Party (GDP) and the United Goans Democratic Party (UGDP) are expected to be fringe players.

PAST PERFORMANCE 

The below chart in many ways depicts the way Goan politics has moved in last two decades. In 1996, the regional parties were dominant as the state's two original outfits - the MGP and the UGDP won a single seat each. Ironically, this was the last time that a regional party won a Lok Sabha seat from the state. In 1998, the Congress won both the seats whereas in the very next year, it was the BJP that swept Goa. In the last two polls, while the BJP has won the North Goa seat, the South Goa seat has gone to the INC. Both in 2004 and 2009, the Congress and the NCP had fought the elections in a pre-poll alliance. 

Political Party
1996
1998
1999
2004
2009
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
-
-
2
1
1
Congress (INC)
-
2
-
1
1
Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP)
1
-
-
-
-
United Goans Democratic Party (UGDP)
1
-
-
-
-

MY PREDICTIONS

While Parrikar's approval rating may not be sky high at the moment I think the BJP is the strongest contender here to bag both seats. Three-time MP Shripad Naik is likely to sail through in the North and the Catholics seems to have no reason to desert the saffron outfit. Moreover, the CM's rather soft approach on the Medium of Instruction in schools was seen as an attempt to appease the Christians. It will be beneficial if the party can persuade its ally, the MGP to refrain from putting candidates. The Congress will find it hard to retain South Goa, especially after the bad governance of the UPA II. However, the tie-up with the NCP will help. Meanwhile, if they can rope in Paccecho's GVP then its fortunes in Marmagao may change. 

Political Party/Alliance
Expected Seats
1
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
1-2
2
UPA (Congress+NCP)
0-1


WATCH OUT

(1) The Wounded Tiger: After jumping several ships, Vishnu Wagh contested the 2012 elections from the St. Andre constituency and won. Denied a ministerial berth, he has been sulking for long and even sent overtures to the NCP. On a visit to a social gathering organized by a local NCP leader, he was alleged attacked by BJP goons. A few weeks back, he was stripped of all his positions in the government by the CM. Wagh has now dared the BJP to expel him. He knows that if he willing resigns, he will no longer be a MLA. It is speculated that he may join the NCP and contest the North Goa parliamentary seat against Shripad. 

(2) The Ripple Effect: In 2005, months after the NDA was dislodged from power, a group of four BJP legislators deserted the party and joined the Congress. In fact, Goa is a state known for its political instability. Vishnu Wagh is already in rebellion. Thought the government still enjoys the support of about 23 MLAs, it will not take much the woo the MGP away. In case, the UPA wins this election, you can be pretty sure that Parrikar will not complete his full term in spite of a handsome victory in 2012.

For more posts in this series:
(1) Telangana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(2) Karnataka & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(3) Rajasthan & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(4) Maharashtra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(5) Kerala & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(6) Assam & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(7) Tripura & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(8) Haryana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(9) Chhattisgarh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(10) Jammu Kashmir & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(11) Madhya Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(12) Bihar & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(13) Jharkhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(14) Sikkim & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(15) Arunachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(16) Nagaland & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(17) Manipur & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(18) Meghalaya & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(19) Mizoram & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(20) Delhi & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(21) Uttarakhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(22) Himachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(23) Gujarat & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(24) Punjab & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(25) Bengal & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(26) Odisha & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(27) Tamil Nadu & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(28) Andhra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(29) Uttar Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)