A multi-cornered election in Goa has triggered fears of the return of political instability and a hung Assembly. The Aam Aadmi Party is making its debut in the state, adding drama to the traditional BJP-Congress rivalry. Besides them, the Goa Forward party is making its appearance, as is an alliance combining former saffron party allies Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Shiv Sena and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh faction Goa Suraksha Manch.

On March 7, however, Goa Suraksha Manch leader had dissolved the party to reunite with the RSS.

There are 251 candidates vying for the 40 Assembly constituencies, with an average 29,000 voters each. Goa and Punjab were the first two states to vote in the 2017 Assembly elections.

Illegal mining, casinos, cultural protectionism, religion and caste are factors that determine how the Goan electorate sways.

Goa had reported a record voter turnout of 83% during the February 4 election, but over 17,000 votes via postal ballot also have to be factored in. The government had announced a 36-day window for state employees on election duty and service staff who were posted out of Goa.

Campaign controversies

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Aam Aadmi Party Convener Arvind Kejriwal had drawn flak from the Election Commission for their statements encouraging voters to accept votes. The commission had issued a warning to Parrikar on February 16 and ordered that an FIR be filed against Kejriwal on January 29. Chief Election Commission Nasim Zaidi had justified the different penalties, saying that the cases were different.

Besides this, the BJP has denied allegations made by Opposition parties that it attempted to influence and bribe the over 17,000 state employees who were on election duty on February 4 and staffers associated with the armed forces, paramilitary forces and other service voters who are posted outside the state.

The ruling BJP has been criticised for going back on it 2012 election promises, including a curb on illegal mining and the removal of casinos. But it remains unclear if they will face an anti-incumbency vote. The Congress has accused the saffron party of corruption in 26 cases and even slammed Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar over alleged nepotism.

Speculation over Parrikar’s return to state politics has pushed Chief Minister Parsekar to the sidelines. Parrikar had been removed as Goa chief minister to take over the Union defence portfolio in 2014.

The Congress has tried to portray a revamped look in Goa this time, with former Chief Minister Luizinho Faleiro at its helm. Under Faleiro’s leadership, the party has also attempted to shed its tag of dynastic politics.

In the fray

The Congress had contested in 37 of the 40 constituencies and supported other outfits including the newly launched Goa Forward Party’s candidates for the remaining seats. The BJP has fielded 36 candidates and supported independent candidates in four other constituencies. AAP announced an ambitious 39 candidates and the right-wing anti-BJP faction threw its hat in 30 constituencies.

The AAP has fielded a former bureaucrat and ex-Inspector General of Prisons Elvis Gomes as its chief ministerial candidate. BJP’s star campaigner Manohar Parrikar did not stand in the polls.

Exit polls

Exit polls for Goa have projected BJP in the lead. MRC predicted 15 seats for the saffron party, 10 for the Congress and seven for AAP. C-Voter predictions for Goa also favour the BJP, with a win in 15 to 21 seats. Its numbers say that the Congress will win 12 to 18 seats, while the AAP will get only two to four. Axis shows BJP will win 20 seats, Congress 11, and AAP only 1 seat.

The 2012 elections

An anti-Congress wave in the run-up to the 2012 elections secured the BJP and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party alliance a comfortable 24 seats. The Congress was reduced to nine.