INDEPENDENTS HOLD THE KEY

GIANT KILLERS: Independent candidates might well turn out to be the giant killers in the current election

Independent candidates may emerge as the largest single group in the new Legislative Assembly with many minority community candidates who contested on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s lotus symbol choosing to stand unaffiliated

By GO Staff

In the 2012 Assembly elections, there were several independent candidates who were elected with the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including, for the first time, Salcette’s minority communities who have traditionally shunned the Sangh Parivar. However, this time around, Avertano Furtado, who not only won the election from Navelim but was made Fisheries minister in the Manohar Parrikar cabinet, has declined a BJP ticket. Similarly, Benjamin Silva, who had taken the support of the BJP, has chosen to contest as an independent this time.

It is not as though candidates denied a party ticket have had no other choices. Besides the three national parties, we have the United Goans Party (UGP) floated by Babush Monserrate, the Goa Vikas Party which has thrown Mickky Pacheco out, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Goa Suraj Party. Not to mention the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and its alliance partner the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) and the Shiv Sena. Despite this, there are many political heavy weights who still feel they are better off as independents.

In Porvorim, Rohan Khaunte is contesting for the second time as an independent, though there has been no instance of an independent candidate getting re-elected. Similarly, Rudolf Fernandes, son of ‘Mummy’ dearest (Victoria Fernandes), is contesting as an independent as the Congress has refused to give him a ticket.

Nine Cornered Contest

THE Congress candidate in Santa Cruz – which will see a nine-cornered contest – is Antonio Caetano Fernandes (incidentally the name of the original owner of the Herald). In the last election, Babush Monserrate had defeated both MGP’s Dinar Tarcar and Congress’ Rudolf. In Canacona, the BJP MLA who was also the Sports Minister has been forced to contest as an independent as the BJP did not give him a ticket this time. Significantly, Congress candidate Isidore Fernandes is an old friend of Babush Monserrate.

The candidate everyone seems to love to hate is Govind Gaude who is taking on MGP president Deepak Dhavalikar. The BJP which broke its alliance with the MGP has extended its support to Gaude. Earlier the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also had extended support to him but decided to field its own candidate Dattaram Dessai when the BJP extended support to Gaude who is strongly expected to win.

In Mormugao too, independents seem to have an edge over party candidates. In Dabolim, Kenneth Silveira is taking on sitting Congress MLA Mauvin Godinho who has jumped over to the BJP. Dabolim also has a candidate from the Niz Goenkar Revolutionary party. There are two independent candidates, but a three-cornered contest is expected between outgoing BJP Power minister Milind Naik, AAP’s Karl Vaz and Congress’ Sankalp Amonkar. In Vasco-da-Gama, Gandhi Henriques, considered among the richest candidates, is contesting as an independent, challenging BJP’s Carlos Almeida and Jose Filipe D’Souza.

Many disappointed Congress leaders have also been forced to fight as independents. This includes Joaquim Alemao who will take on sitting MLA Rajan Naik and AAP chief ministerial candidate Elvis Gomes. In Velim where there are 12 candidates including four independents, sitting BJP MLA Benjamin Silva is contesting as an independent. Among his opponents is former minister Felipe Neri Rodrigues and tiatrist Wilson Mazarelo who declined the Goa Suraj ticket.

It is expected that in Aldona, independent candidate founder and managing director of Ann Institute of Hotel Management Anandrao Nagvekar has an edge over the sitting BJP MLA Glenn Ticlo. Though Ticlo is quite popular with the voters, he may be a victim of the anti-incumbency factor against the BJP. Most people do not realise that in 2012 people did not vote for the BJP, but against the Congress. Moreover they did not even vote for the BJP, but for Manohar Parrikar who was seen as a good administrator.

POLL DYNAMICS

WITH Parrikar moving to Delhi as Defence minister, both the minority community and even large sections of the majority community may not vote for the BJP this time. This is why party president Amit Shah took pains to assure Goa that whether Parrikar is in Delhi or Goa, he will continue to monitor the state administration. Parrikar himself is not willing to commit to returning to Goa as the chief minister if the BJP secures the majority.

The Indian Express revealed an interesting aspect of the elections to the Legislative Assembly. North Goa district has over eight lakhs population, but the percentage of Catholics is less than five per cent. In sharp contrast, south Goa district has only six lakhs population but the percentage of Catholics is as high as 37 per cent, most concentrated in Salcete. Historically, the minority dominated Salcette has voted for the Congress party.

In 2012, Parrikar for the first time persuaded members of the Catholic minority community to contest on the lotus symbol. He extended support to independent candidates from the minority community like Avertano Furtado in Navelim who was later inducted into the cabinet. Both, Catholic MLAs who stood on the BJP ticket, and those who took the party’s support in South Goa, have chosen to stand as independents this time.

These include besides Avertano Furtado in Navelim, Caitano Silva in Benaulim, Benjamin Silva in  Velim and Joaquim Alemao who has been denied a Congress ticket in Velim.

In its desperation, the BJP has even decided to extend support to notorious candidates. Significantly, it has not put up a candidate against Churchill Alemao in Benaulim, who is contesting on the NCP ticket. In Nuvem, it is supporting the controversial Mickky Pacheco who is charged with abetting suicide. In Priol, the BJP has not put up a candidate and has extended support to Govind Gaude who is contesting as an independent against Deepak Dhavalikar.

Last time, five independents were voted to power. This time, the number may be in double digits. Though various surveys sponsored by national parties have projected that the BJP, Congress and AAP will emerge as the largest single group in the new Legislative Assembly, it is possible that it may be the independents who become the king makers.

Independents have the advantage of being able to extend support to any party, and even joining the cabinet as a minister without incurring disqualification, unlike MLAs of political parties who cannot change loyalties unless they resign and re-contest on the ticket of the party they want to join.

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