Assembly elections

Goa 2017: Squabbling saffron outfits mean BJP might face choppy waters

Assembly elections in Goa will be held on February 4.

The Election Commission on Wednesday announced dates for the Goa Assembly elections this year, with all 40 seats in the state set to go to the polls in a single phase on February 4. Punjab, which votes on the same day, and Goa are thus the first of five states holding elections over February and March, with counting for all set to be conducted on March 11.


Phases: 1

Voting day: February 4

Counting day: March 11

Goa has swung between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress for the last few decades, with the current leadership being an alliance between the BJP and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party. If all were going well, considering the general rightward shift in polity and the continued popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there should have been no reason to doubt the continued success of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the state.

But the BJP-MGP’s own support base has found a way to add much more intrigue to the state’s upcoming elections. On December 12, Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar dropped two of the senior-most leaders of the MGP from his Cabinet after they made it clear that they were gunning for the chief ministerial post themselves. There hasn’t yet been an official break between the alliance partners, yet it seems clear that they are not on the same page.

Beyond the government, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh also saw a split in the state after the breakaway faction joined issue with the BJP’s reluctance to de-fund schools that use English as their medium of instruction, in favour of those with Konkani and Marathi. That has led to yet another political party that, along with the Shiv Sena and a few others, means the likelihood of an anti-BJP alliance that isn’t run by the principal Opposition.

The Congress’ Luizinho Faleiro will hope that this divides the traditional BJP-MGP support base. Recent visits by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi have also added some wind to the party’s sails. In the same corner, however, is the Aam Aadmi Party, which has been loud – at least on social media – about its ambitions in the state, even if those won’t necessarily translate on the ground.

What seems entirely possible, considering the mess of parties now contesting in various alliances, is something of a split verdict. This would give the BJP an upper hand, since being in power at the Centre means it is better placed to make promises that can help it cobble together an alliance.

Parsekar has been mostly lacklustre, particularly in his responses to the various splits and factionalism, meaning this eleciton will also be something of a test of Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s political career – since, even though he left the chief ministerial position a few years ago, he is often called out in Delhi for spending too much time back in Goa. A loss for the BJP will hurt his political fortunes as well.

For more background on the state:

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Relying on the power of habits to solve India’s mammoth sanitation problem

Adopting three simple habits can help maximise the benefits of existing sanitation infrastructure.

India’s sanitation problem is well documented – the country was recently declared as having the highest number of people living without basic sanitation facilities. Sanitation encompasses all conditions relating to public health - especially sewage disposal and access to clean drinking water. Due to associated losses in productivity caused by sickness, increased healthcare costs and increased mortality, India recorded a loss of 5.2% of its GDP to poor sanitation in 2015. As tremendous as the economic losses are, the on-ground, human consequences of poor sanitation are grim - about one in 10 deaths, according to the World Bank.

Poor sanitation contributes to about 10% of the world’s disease burden and is linked to even those diseases that may not present any correlation at first. For example, while lack of nutrition is a direct cause of anaemia, poor sanitation can contribute to the problem by causing intestinal diseases which prevent people from absorbing nutrition from their food. In fact, a study found a correlation between improved sanitation and reduced prevalence of anaemia in 14 Indian states. Diarrhoeal diseases, the most well-known consequence of poor sanitation, are the third largest cause of child mortality in India. They are also linked to undernutrition and stunting in children - 38% of Indian children exhibit stunted growth. Improved sanitation can also help reduce prevalence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Though not a cause of high mortality rate, NTDs impair physical and cognitive development, contribute to mother and child illness and death and affect overall productivity. NTDs caused by parasitic worms - such as hookworms, whipworms etc. - infect millions every year and spread through open defecation. Improving toilet access and access to clean drinking water can significantly boost disease control programmes for diarrhoea, NTDs and other correlated conditions.

Unfortunately, with about 732 million people who have no access to toilets, India currently accounts for more than half of the world population that defecates in the open. India also accounts for the largest rural population living without access to clean water. Only 16% of India’s rural population is currently served by piped water.

However, there is cause for optimism. In the three years of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the country’s sanitation coverage has risen from 39% to 65% and eight states and Union Territories have been declared open defecation free. But lasting change cannot be ensured by the proliferation of sanitation infrastructure alone. Ensuring the usage of toilets is as important as building them, more so due to the cultural preference for open defecation in rural India.

According to the World Bank, hygiene promotion is essential to realise the potential of infrastructure investments in sanitation. Behavioural intervention is most successful when it targets few behaviours with the most potential for impact. An area of public health where behavioural training has made an impact is WASH - water, sanitation and hygiene - a key issue of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6. Compliance to WASH practices has the potential to reduce illness and death, poverty and improve overall socio-economic development. The UN has even marked observance days for each - World Water Day for water (22 March), World Toilet Day for sanitation (19 November) and Global Handwashing Day for hygiene (15 October).

At its simplest, the benefits of WASH can be availed through three simple habits that safeguard against disease - washing hands before eating, drinking clean water and using a clean toilet. Handwashing and use of toilets are some of the most important behavioural interventions that keep diarrhoeal diseases from spreading, while clean drinking water is essential to prevent water-borne diseases and adverse health effects of toxic contaminants. In India, Hindustan Unilever Limited launched the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, a WASH behaviour change programme, to complement the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Through its on-ground behaviour change model, SASB seeks to promote the three basic WASH habits to create long-lasting personal hygiene compliance among the populations it serves.

This touching film made as a part of SASB’s awareness campaign shows how lack of knowledge of basic hygiene practices means children miss out on developmental milestones due to preventable diseases.


SASB created the Swachhata curriculum, a textbook to encourage adoption of personal hygiene among school going children. It makes use of conceptual learning to teach primary school students about cleanliness, germs and clean habits in an engaging manner. Swachh Basti is an extensive urban outreach programme for sensitising urban slum residents about WASH habits through demos, skits and etc. in partnership with key local stakeholders such as doctors, anganwadi workers and support groups. In Ghatkopar, Mumbai, HUL built the first-of-its-kind Suvidha Centre - an urban water, hygiene and sanitation community centre. It provides toilets, handwashing and shower facilities, safe drinking water and state-of-the-art laundry operations at an affordable cost to about 1,500 residents of the area.

HUL’s factory workers also act as Swachhata Doots, or messengers of change who teach the three habits of WASH in their own villages. This mobile-led rural behaviour change communication model also provides a volunteering opportunity to those who are busy but wish to make a difference. A toolkit especially designed for this purpose helps volunteers approach, explain and teach people in their immediate vicinity - their drivers, cooks, domestic helps etc. - about the three simple habits for better hygiene. This helps cast the net of awareness wider as regular interaction is conducive to habit formation. To learn more about their volunteering programme, click here. To learn more about the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hindustan Unilever and not by the Scroll editorial team.