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.

Goa

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:

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