GOAN VOTERS ARE AJEEB!

By Rajan Narayan

ON June 4 2024, Narendra Modi and Shrinivas Dempo will realize why India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru called Goans ajeeb (strange). It was Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his Congress government which had liberated Goa. Nehru thought that the grateful people of Goa would elect the Congress to power in the first general election after liberation. The people of Goa rejected the Congress. They voted the two regional parties Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the United Goans. The MGP got the majority in the 30-member legislative assembly and formed the government of the Union territory. Similarly, Narendra Modi and Shrinivas Dempo may discover that the Ram Mandir and claims of double engine growth have not evoked any response from the voters of South Goa in particular.
Unlike in the North, the South Goa voters are polarized along communal lines. The catholic community which accounts for almost 50% of the South Goa electoral rate may not have voted for the South Goa BJP candidate Pallavi Dempo. Significantly, on the eve of polling day May 7 the church in Goa held a holy hour in all the parishes on Friday and Sunday. The Holy hour for the special services was held on the instruction of the cardinal Filipe Neri. The cardinal in his directive to the parish priest have asked them to ask catholic voters to uphold constitutional values like freedom of religion. The cardinal in a private meeting reportedly made it clear that Goan Catholics should boycott the BJP. This is the first time since liberation that the church has come out openly against any political party. The church in Goa seems to object not to the BJP party as much as Narendra Modi. It is possible that the visit of Narendra Modi to the Ram Mandir on May 5, may have tilted the barrens of the BJP. It was a reminder that on the ongoing elections are a battle between a Hindu Bharat and a secular India. As a veteran hotelier pointed out to me this time the voters had to decide whether they wanted a Hindu India or a secular India. More specifically in the case of Goa whether we wanted the fundamental version of Hindutva that he has taken over the North. In polarize South Goa the Catholic and Muslim minority community account for the bulk of voters. They are not impressed with Modi’s claims of Nari Sakti. Particularly in the light of the Prajwal Revenna episode. The BJP granted a ticket to Prajwal who has been charged with serial molestation. So the fact that women candidate has been fielded from South Goa will not impress the voters of South Goa. The Muslim minority community which is present in large numbers in South Goa have not voted for the BJP. The fate of the BJP candidate in South Goa will depend on the migrant voters. But the 10,000 slum residents of Zuarinagar which is called Fukatnagar are disappointed both with the BJP under Congress. There is not even single-engine development in Zuarinagar. There are only six toilet blocks for 10,000 Zuarinagar residents. The toilets were built in 2005 after Modi came to power. For lack of maintenance, they have collapsed. The toilets have not been provided with a water supply or soak pits. There was no response from the slum dwellers to the request for votes from either the Congress or the BJP.
The India alliance had a good chance of winning the South Goa parliamentary seats. Even Francisco Saldinha the seating Member of Parliament could have been a good choice. But the stake Congress which is divided forced the Congress High Command to select Capt Viriato Fernandes as the Congress candidate. Viriato started with a personal attack on Pallavi Dempo. Viriato showed his paklo mindset by claiming that the Indian constitution was imposed on Goa. Viriato has no track record of serving the people as he has not been in power before. In any case the people of Goa are totally confused as to who belongs to the BJP and who belongs to the Congress. As many as eight MLAs over-elected on the Congress ticket switched over to the BJP. This included two former Congress ministers, the former chief minister Digambar Kamat and the former industry minister Alexieo Sequeira. In North Goa Babush Monserrate, Jennifer and Rudolf Fernandes joined the BJP. The congress MLAs may have defected. But the voters have not joined the BJP. Unlike the other MLAs, nobody has offered them bags of money to change parties.
We are not surprised that the voter turnout on Tuesday May 7 in both the North Goa and South Goa has been much lower than in 2014 or 2019. This is because there is total disenchantment with the Pramod Sawant government. Goa has suffered from the double-engine growth model. Double tracking has been imposed on Goa for the benefit of the Adanis and the Jindals. The coal-carrying capacity of the Marmugoa Port trust has been increased. Interestingly, major business houses including the Birlas have shifted out of MPT because of harassment by the local BJP MLA Sankalp Amonkar. Pramod Sawant has not been able to control Sankalp who is demanding bribes for transporting material out of the MPT. Narendra Modi’s visit to Goa on February 6 he claimed to have launched several projects worth of Rs1000 crore. This included the ropeway from Reis Magos to Panaji and the national watersports institutes in Goa. This has been inaugurated several times in the past. The advertisement released by the BJP talks about the various projects launched in Goa in February. They won’t be complete for another ten years. If in South Goa coal pollution is a major issue in the capital city it is the smart city projects which has paralyzed Panaji.
In the rest of the country also there are signs that the BJP is on the back foot. There is not much talk of crossing the 400 mark in parliament. There is a revolt among the Rajputs in Gujarat against Narendra Modi. Even in Uttar Pradesh the Samajwadi Congress Alliance will pose a challenge to Yogi Aditiyanath. In the South ofcourse, the BJP may be rejected. Mamta continues to be strong in West Bengal. June 4 2024 when the results are announced may spring surprises not only in Goa but the rest of the country.

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