HINDUS, MIGRANTS VOTE VIRIATO! By Sandesh Prabhudesai

By Sandesh Prabhudesai

The veteran journalist released that a section of Hindus in Salcete and Hindu migrants in Mormugao voted for the Congress party candidate captain Viriato. Sandesh points out that though HIndus comprise 36% of the Salcete population only 30% voter for the BJP. in Marmugoa which has become the HIndu majority region the BJP did not get the majority Hindu vote. This would suggest that the Hindu migrants who voted for the Congress. In Cortalim the Congress (51%) turned the tables on BJP (45%). Neither Sankalp Amonkar nor Milind Naik could make a difference to the BJP vote.

MORE than the traditional vote bank of the Congress, the effort of the Aam Aadmi Party in Salcete and severe damage caused by the Revolutionary Goans’ Party in the BJP strongholds helped the Congress win the South Goa seat in a tightrope battle.
Perhaps it was a tougher battle for a retired defence officer, Captain Viriato Fernandes, than the battles he fought against the country’s enemies in a warzone. With a mere difference of decimal points in terms of percentage, the Congress candidate won the one-time undisputed fort of the Congress by only 13,535 votes from among around 4.45 lakh voters who exercised their franchise in the Lok Sabha poll 2024.
BJP’s parashoot candidate Pallavi Dempo, a non-cadre businesswoman alien to the saffron brigade, turned out to be a real challenge to the age-old Congress party due to the ruling party’s meticulous booth management and 15 out of 20 MLAs on their side in the South Goa Parliamentary constituency. The Congress had earlier won this seat ten times out of 16 since 1977, including a by-election. This time, however, the opposition party had neither a well-knit organisation (perhaps chaos) nor powerful leaders, except two legislators each from the Congress and the AAP and one from the Goa Forward.

RGP decline, AAP shift & Hindu Congis of Saxtti
At face value, it sounded that the Christian-dominated Salcete taluka, with eight Assembly segments, made Viriato the “Captain of the South.” He scored a huge lead of around 63,000 votes in Saxtti, unlike the 51,000 lead his predecessor Francisco Sardinha secured in 2019 while winning the poll by 9755.
It appears that 12,000 more votes in Salcete helped Viriato win the crucial poll. But this is not a complete truth. Around 27,000 more electors voted in this election across the constituency. Around 9000 more Saxttikar from eight of 20 Assembly segments (40% of the South) voted. The number increased due to this. That’s why goanews.com decided to compare the percentage of votes of two Lok Sabha polls to get a near-perfect authentic picture. The figures are surprising!
As per the survey conducted by a Bangalore-based agency in the 2019 election, Hindus comprised 36 per cent in Salcete. However, the Hindutva party could garner only 30 per cent of the votes while keeping its vote share intact. Even in 2019, the BJP had polled only 30 per cent. It appears that at least six per cent of Hindus continued voting for the Congress in Saxtti. It could be perhaps more this time due to the continuously changing demography of South Goa, but we have no authentic figures to prove it.

Minorities include Christians and Muslims
Having four legislators on the BJP’s side in the one-time Congress bastion of Saxtti made no difference. Neither ‘original’ BJP legislator Ulhas Tuenkar in Navelim nor the ‘defector’-turned-minister Aleixo Sequeira in Nuvem could raise the BJP’s vote share. A zero impact! That too when Navelim today is a Hindu-majority constituency. Even in Curtorim, independent MLA Aleixo Reginald Lourenco – supporting the BJP – could raise the saffron vote by only one per cent. 542 more, to be precise, when nearly 1500 more people lined up at the booths!
In comparison, defector Digambar Kamat could save his face by increasing the vote share by eight per cent—2428 more votes than in 2019, while only 1400 more voters came out. When he was a ‘loyal Congressman’ in 2019, the BJP candidate Narendra Sawaikar polled around 9000 votes. Though the Almighty God supposedly blessed Digambar to saffronise the cultural city, hardly around 2400 voters from his camp blessed him. The Congress still polled over 10,000 votes. While Viriato was seven per cent less, Dempo was eight-plus.
In comparison, the Christian-Muslim minorities were 63 per cent in Salcete, including 53 per cent Christians, as per the 2019 survey. In the last five years, the Christian population has certainly declined further due to more Portuguese citizens losing their voting rights. (Many still live in Goa but have opted for Portuguese citizenship for their children’s prospects.) In spite of this, Congress gained 66 per cent of the votes in Salcete.
Only three per cent of Saxttikar voters in the Lok Sabha poll opted for the RGP, unlike 12 per cent who supported it in the Assembly election held two years ago. In 2019, the AAP polled nine per cent of votes. With the Delhi-based party joining the INDIA alliance this time, at least six per cent of AAP voters appear to have shifted in favour of the Congress in the Lok Sabha poll. In terms of number of votes, this shift is around 9400 voters, who strengthened the Congress position in Saxtti.
In fact, only three constituencies played a major role in rescuing the Congress from losing. The AAP represents two: Benaulim by Venzy Viegas (13% more) and Velim by Cruz Silva (11% more). The third one, in Cuncolim (10% more), is led by Yuri Alemao, the Leader of the Opposition belonging to the Congress. Interestingly, the AAP had performed well only in these three Assembly segments in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll: 15% in Benaulim, 12% in Velim, and 11% in Cuncolim, the hometown of then-AAP candidate Elvis Gomes. In its place, RGP’s Rubert Pereira could pull hardly eight per cent of the votes in these three segments.
In the last Assembly poll of 2022, many traditional Congress voters had shied away from Goa Forward legislator Vijai Sardesai since he had supported the BJP government in 2017. He could poll only 46 per cent of the votes, while Sardinha, in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, had polled 49 per cent. But the Congress-GFP combine gained a rise of almost six per cent votes this time, while the BJP polled two per cent less. In spite of hardly 450 more voting, Congress pulled over 1600 more votes than last time and secured a lead of over 2400 votes. The RGP was also three per cent less than the AAP in 2019.

Hindu-majority Mormugao hit the BJP fiercely
THE whole of Mormugao taluka, comprising Mormugao, Vasco, Dabolim, and Cortalim Assembly segments, is no longer minority-dominated. Christians (20%) and Muslims (13%) constitute only 33%. Hindus, including migrants, have risen to 66%. Despite this, the Hindutva party polled hardly 51%, down four per cent from 2019. The Congress rose from 41 to 45%. A sizeable chunk of the majority community had voted for the Congress last time and also in this Parliamentary election. However, half of its electorate still remained with the BJP, which polled 51 percent, against 45 percent of Congress. The taluka, with a heavy influx of migrants, could not garner more than two per cent votes for the RGP, the anti-migrant regional outfit.
The major blow came from Cortalim, where the Congress (51%) turned the tables and overscored the BJP(45%). It was 47 per cent each in 2019, with hardly 84 more votes for the BJP. Except for Cortalim, where BJP-supported Anton Vaz had won as an independent by polling hardly 23 per cent votes in a multi-cornered contest, the rest of the three Assembly segments are represented by the BJP legislators.
The handshake of ‘defector’ BJP legislator Sankalp Amonkar and with his rival and ex-BJP MLA Milind Naik of the Mormugao Assembly segment could not create any magic. The saffron party was down five per cent, though it secured a lead of around 2000 votes while around 6000 more voted this time. The Congress increased its vote share from 38 to 41 per cent, while the RGP could raise it by only one per cent. Comparatively, Vasco MLA Daji Salkar could manage the show by reducing the saffron vote by only one per cent, which was a Congress gain.
In the 2022 Assembly poll, Captain Viriato garnered only 32 per cent of the votes in Dabolim, while the AAP polled almost 14 per cent, against the BJP winner Mauvin Godinho (41%). The BJP secured 55 per cent of the votes in the Lok Sabha poll, but it was down four per cent from 2019. Captain Viriato, with the AAP support, increased his vote share by five more per cent, from 36 to 41 per cent on his home ground.

Is the BJP’s base shaking in the New Conquests?
THE ruling BJP was confident that the major loss in Salcete and partial loss in Mormugao, two talukas of the Old Conquests having Christian-Muslim vote banks, would be covered by the rest by the five talukas of the New Conquests (conquered in the 17th century by the Portuguese when there was no religious conversion), where Hindu is a big majority. But it did not happen.
These are the talukas of Ponda, Quepem, Canacona, and Sanguem (including Dharbandora). In addition to three Assembly segments of Ponda taluka: Marcaim, Ponda, and Shiroda; Quepem: (Quepem & Curchorem) and Sanguem-Dharbandora: (Sanguem & Sanvordem), each has two segments. Canacona is one segment.
First of all, in this whole belt of a total of eight Assembly segments, all Hindus did not vote for the BJP even this time, as in the past. While Hindus comprise of 77 per cent in this belt of New Conquests, only 57 per cent favoured Hindutva. It was down 20 per cent. The minorities, including Christians and Muslims, are only 23 per cent here. But Congress polled 34 percent of votes, which was up 11 percent. The RGP pulled six per cent votes. Among these, 10 per cent votes were in Ponda taluka alone, while Sanguem also grabbed six per cent. Obviously, this was a big blow to the BJP.
A big blow to the ruling party was also in Quepem taluka, where 18 per cent of Hindus voted largely for Congress and also probably for the RGP. The BJP’s Hindutva thought was not appreciated by a large number of Hindus in all the four Hindu-dominated talukas
Interestingly, Salcete, with eight Assembly segments, had only 9000 more polling this time than in 2019. But in the eight segments of the New Conquests, around 11,880 more people rushed to the polling booths. Nearly 4000 more in Sanguem taluka and around 3000 more in Quepem taluka. However, the BJP’s vote share remained intact in all four talukas – at 57 per cent, as in 2019. But the Congress did not gain from it. In fact, its vote share declined from 39 to 34 per cent. However, as a third player, the RGP polled six percent of the votes, unlike two percent of the AAP in 2019. Against 4300 polled by the AAP last time, the RGP polled above 12,300 votes. Due to this, the BJP could not cover its loss in Salcete!
The RGP damaged the BJP’s prospects in the Assembly segments of Marcaim, Shiroda, Ponda, Sanvordem, and Sanguem. The regional outfit also scored better than the AAP in 2019 in Canacona. In Ponda taluka alone, the RGP surpassed the AAP in 2019 and jumped from 1300 to 6800 votes, when 2500 more were polled.
MGP supremo Sudin Dhavalikar of Marcaim was the biggest sufferer among all. In 2019, he had managed to shift almost 6500 votes in favour of the Congress candidate Francisco Sardinha after he was dropped from the BJP alliance government by helping the Congress to win the seat. But the power minister this time was made powerless by the RGP phenomenon. The Congress was around 5500 this time, but the BJP gained only 4000 in spite of 1600 more polling. The Congress was down from 46 to 18 per cent, but the BJP was up from 52 to 66 per cent. Compared to 28 per cent loss to the Congress, the BJP gained only 14 per cent. The RGP was at 13 per cent, close to 15 per cent votes it polled in the 2022 Assembly poll. That was a major loss to the BJP!
In Shiroda, this time, the polling was lower by 575 votes compared to 2019 because the Assembly segment also had a by-election last time. In spite of that, Congress lost only two per cent of the vote this time. But the BJP lost seven percent of the votes, in spite of former Congress MLA Subhash Shirodkar being the BJP leader now. The RGP polled 12 per cent of the vote, causing more damage to the BJP than to the Congress.
Even in Ravi Naik’s Ponda, the Congress slipped from 41 to 35 per cent. But that was not Ravi-patrao’s gain. The BJP scored only one per cent more—only 1000 more when 1500 more voted. The AAP polled one per cent (297) in 2019, unlike RGP, which polled five per cent (1142). In the Assembly poll, it had polled seven per cent.
Yet another major damage the RGP caused was in Sanvordem. Both the Congress and the BJP were down four percent. While the AAP was at two percent in 2019, the RGP rose to eight percent this time, from 420 to 2069. Even in Sanguem and Canacona, the RGP, as a third player, doubled its vote share from around 500 to 1000.
This damage by the RGP, mainly to the ruling BJP, made a big difference in losing the fierce battle in South Goa. That too when the Congress actually polled two per cent less in Quepem Congress MLA Altone D’Costa’s bastion. Curchorem MLA Nilesh Carbal of the BJP lost a four per cent vote share than in 2019. Interestingly, the RGP polled less than the APP in Curchorem. But still, it managed to damage the prospects of the ruling BJP by countering the propaganda that the regional outfit is the B Team of the BJP!!!

(Courtesy: The Goa News)

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