The phrase “political tourists” was used liberally by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, ahead of the 2022 state assembly elections, to take a dig at the battalions of Aam Aadmi Party and Trinamool Congress leaders, who were paratrooping into poll-bound Goa.
On June 29, plush buses and a large convoy of police escort vehicles lined up along the driveway of the Dabolim International airport in Goa, awaiting the arrival of a fresh set of ‘political tourists’, disgruntled Shiv Sena lawmakers led by Eknath Shinde.
The legislators arrived late on Wednesday night, before they were whisked to the Taj Resort and Convention Centre at Dona Paula near Panaji. They were to halt for a night, before travelling to Mumbai for a crucial vote of confidence of the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
Thackeray has since resigned and the session of the Maharashtra state assembly has been postponed, leaving the rebel MLAs to relish an extended stay in Goa, a state where the Shiv Sena incidentally has never really been able to leave a mark over the last few decades.
Shiv Sena formally launched itself in Goa in 1987, 21 years after the party was founded by Bal Thackeray, in neighbouring Maharashtra in 1966. The party contested its first state assembly election in Goa in 1989 winning just 0.98 of the popular vote.
Barring the 1994 elections, when the Sena joined forces with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and its candidate Dilip Kalangutkar came close to defeating sitting Chief Minister Dr. Wilfred de Souza in the contest for the Saligao assembly constituency, the party has neither flattered much in terms of performance nor delivered electoral results.
In more recent elections, the Shiv Sena has found it difficult to outmatch votes polled under the NOTA (none of the above) option.
According to Goa Shiv Sena president Jitesh Kamat, when the party was founded in 1966, Thackeray’s outlook did not stretch beyond Mumbai during the early years. Even after the party was formed in Goa in 1987, Thackeray, Kamat said, was not keen on going gung-ho electorally in the neighbouring state.
But now, considering its present equation (or lack thereof) with the BJP, the Shiv Sena could emerge as a party with an alternative Hindutva narrative, Kamat says, claiming that his party “really wants to go hard against the BJP”.
“(If the party expands across India) then we have a good future, because the need of the hour says that we need one more Hindutvawadi party in India, not only in Goa. Currently, the opposition is divided and the BJP wants it to be the only Hindutvawadi party,” Kamat said.
Editor of Goan Varta Live Kishor Naik Gaonkar claims that the Shiv Sena’s failure to expand in Goa was because the state had a more temperate political climate, with no stomach for Shiv Sena’s street-style bravado signature.
When asked to contrast the failure of the Shiv Sena against the gradual rise of another Hindu conservative party like the BJP in Goa through the late 1980 and 1990s, Gaonkar said: “Under Parrikar, the BJP took minorities into confidence. He totally created a picture that Goa's BJP is different from national BJP. It is with that strategy that the BJP made inroads in Goa and the Sena on the other hand failed”.