More than half a dozen parties will seek votes in the 2017 election. Besides the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Goa Forward, the Goa Suraj Party and the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch will also join the fray, perhaps along with Babush Monseratte and Churchill Alemao, leading to a splintered verdict
The rapid multiplication and division of parties in the run up to the 2017 assembly elections suggests that it will be a splintered verdict. Besides the main national political parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), following the recent split in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), we have a Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) party.
The BBSM is led by former RSS Goa chief Subhash Velingkar, who has made it clear that his faction will not work for BJP candidates as they have done in the past elections. Indeed, the RSS cadres have been the BJP’s backbone. With Velingkar set to field candidates in all constituencies, the BJP will find the going tough. Political observers believe that at least in 10 constituencies, RSS cadres loyal to Velingkar could upset the official BJP candidate.
But the BBSM is not the only group which may spoil the party of the BJP and the Congress. There are several others waiting to gate crash. The Goa Suraj Party headed by Florian Vaz has announced candidates for four seats including Panjim. Taleigao MLA Babush Monseratte, who was ousted by the Congress, is reviving the United Goans Party. The Babush parivar is likely to put up candidates in Panjim; Taleigao is represented by his wife Jennifer, and his son may contest in Santa Cruz. In addition, he is planning to put up candidates in Sant Andre, Cumbarjua and Agassaim.
The result will be four candidates contesting in the capital, including BJP’s Siddharth Kunkoliencar, Valmiki Naik of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Zico Rodrigues of the Goa Suraj Party. The Congress is sure to announce its own candidate. The grape vine suggests that Velingkar will either contest from Panjim or support Valmiki Naik whose father Datta Naik is an RSS stalwart.
We have not yet exhausted the number of new parties in the fray for the 2017 assembly election. In South Goa, Fomento Group’s Goa Forward Party has the support of former chief minister Digambar Kamat and Fatorda MLA Vijay Sardessai. Porvorim MLA Rohan Khaunte and Bicholim MLA Naresh Sawal have also extended their support. Fomento chairman Audhoot Timblo has considerable influence in the Quepem and Curchorem mining belt where the party may put up candidates.
TOO MANY KINGS
The problem in South Goa is that there are too many kings who command support in their own right and are not dependent on any party. If Churchill Alemao and Mickey Pacheco also set up their own parties, the number of political groups will rise to around a dozen. Churchill has given the Congress an ultimatum to decide on his demand for a ticket for Benaulim. He also wants tickets for his daughter Valanka and brother Joaquim Alemao. Joaquim wants a ticket for his son Yuri. The Churchil parivar, like the Babush parivar in North Goa, wants four tickets for the family.
There is a question mark over the future of the current alliance between the BJP and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP). In the last elections, the BJP had left seven seats for the MGP, of which it won three. This time, in the light of the RSS revolt against the BJP, the MGP is demanding 17 seats. It could accept BBSM support as both demand suspension of grants to English-medium primary schools supported by the church. Both want grants to be limited to Marathi and Konkani schools.
If the BJP does not yield, it is likely that the MGP which ruled Goa for the first 18 years after Liberation may contest on its own or in an alliance with BBSM. The MGP-BBSM alliance is even capable of springing a surprise and emerging as the largest single party.
Both national parties – the Congress and BJP – are facing dissent from within. The BJP is struggling to deal with the RSS revolt. The Congress is witnessing a battle between the generations. Grandfathers like Pratap Singh Rane, Ravi Naik, Francisco Sardinha, Churchil Alemao and Digambar Kamat want to retain control over the party. They are in no mood to make way for younger candidates.
The so-called leaders of the Youth Congress like Girish Chodankar or even Congress national vice president Rahul Gandhi are themselves around 50 years. They are not willing to wait any longer and may move to whichever party offers them a ticket. Even Congress president Luizinho Faleiro – who had promised that 50 per cent of the seats will go to young people – wants to contest the election from Navelim and is projecting himself for the chief minister’s post.
It is difficult for voters to decide which party to vote for because none has a clear stand on important issues. Voters know whom they do not want to vote for but not whom to vote for. There are many who will vote against the BJP in South Goa because of its stand on the medium of instruction issue. Though the BJP has officially taken the stand that grants to schools run by the church will continue, it is not willing to commit to extending grants to all English-medium schools.
Significantly, the Congress and the AAP are also not willing to take a stand on freedom of choice and the grants as they do not want to risk losing the support those who are fanatic about education in the mother tongue. The majority of those supporting the BBSM are not lovers of Konkani but supporters of Marathi.
The BJP is also defending chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar’s decision to grant permission to more casinos. The party looks at casinos as a major source of income to compensate for the loss of income due to the sharp drop in mining. The Congress cannot decide whether it is for or against casinos. Pratap Singh Rane had granted the license to Goa’s first offshore casino. Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh, who is the observer for Goa, has announced that the Congress is not against casinos but only wants them out of the Mandovi River.
In sharp contrast, Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) chief Luizinho Falerio wants all casinos to be closed down claiming that they are a bad influence on youth. Perhaps his sons have started losing money there. It is well known that Churchil Alemao, Mickey Pacheco and senior Congress leader Aleixo Sequeira are regulars at the casinos.
The AAP has yet to make up its mind on the issue. National vice president Dinesh Waghela was very fond of gambling and would visit Jaydev Mody’s casinos regularly. There are rumours that Mody has been approached for funds by all parties. Babush’s party also supports casinos. Goa Forward is not clear about the issue, except that it does not want casinos in the Sal.
There are many other issues on which old and new parties have not taken a stand. In mining, action needs to be taken against politicians indicted by the Shah Commission. It had accused Pratap Singh Rane and Digambar Kamat of granting leases with retrospective effect. Other Congress leaders like Joaquim Alemao and Subhash Shirodkar have also been implicated in the scam.
Goa Forward will not oppose mining as it is funded by a mine owner. Arvind Kejriwal has made the anti-mining lobby angry by suggesting that the capacity should be increased to 40 million tonnes per year against the 20 million tonnes suggested by the Supreme Court. The MGP is also unlikely to oppose mining.
The only group that believes the mines belong to Goa and profits should go to the people is the Goa Foundation. But no party is willing to support them because the mine owners are the biggest contributors to election funds locally and nationally.
The stand on the regional plan is also not clear. RP 2021 notified by Digambar Kamat in 2007 was de-notified when the BJP came to power. Even though there is only six months before the BJP government completes its tenure, there is no sign of it being notified. AAP has not made its stand on the issue, and Goa Forward has not protested the conversion of Goa into a concrete jungle. There is little doubt on what stand will be adopted by the Babush party. The BBSM party might oppose the conversion of agriculture land and orchards.
No party has any answer on how to create jobs for the growing army of the unemployed. It is estimated that 80 per cent of the voters are below 30. Majority are underpaid if not unemployed. The unemployed want to go abroad as there are limited vacancies for government jobs. Salaries offered by the private sector are insufficient to retain talent, though it is generous as far as a migrants are concerned.
Goans will not accept a salary of `8,000 to `10,000, which is a fortune for migrants as there are no jobs in their native place and salaries are below `3000.
The result of the elections will be affected by migration. An increasing number of Goans, both Hindu and Catholic, have left Goa. The percentage of Catholics has come down to 20 per cent from almost 50 per cent at the time of Liberation. The percentage of Muslims has increased to more than 15 per cent with the majority being migrants. Thirty per cent of the Hindu population is migrants. The ethnic population of Goa is 50 per cent or less.
So it is the migrants who will decide which party and which candidate will win the 2017 elections. We would not be surprised if in the 2022 polls, a Kannadiga or someone from Uttar Pradesh becomes Goa’s chief minister.