Friday, Aug 19, 2022

Comeback For Congress In Goa As People Go Back To ‘Known Devil’

Although Goa is headed for a hung assembly with Congress getting 17 of the 40 seats requiring support for at least four seats to form the government, it is a major comeback for the party.

File Photo

“On battleground we have to go united,” claimed senior party functionary Luizinho Faleiro at a press conference at Panjim, before the state went to polls. Digambar Kamat, former chief minister of Goa also accompanied him along with other senior congress leaders. Today this statement has far more meaning and relevance than when it was said by a tentative Congress Party, mired by in-fighting and corruption allegations.
Although Goa is headed for a hung assembly with Congress getting 17 of the 40 seats requiring support for at least four seats to form the government, it is a major comeback for Congress party, where people – disillusioned with BJP - chose to go back to the “known devil” over the Aam Aadmi Party. Independents have won three, Goa Forward Party has won three and Nationalist Congress Party has won a single seat – all of whom could lend support to the Congress – if they were to stake claim. Of the new entrants, neither AAP, floated as an alternative to Congress and the BJP, nor Velingkar's Goa Suraksha Manch made any impact.  

The BJP, which had a lackluster chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar, (who has lost to a Congress candidate a margin of 7000 odd votes – a huge gap by Goa standards) was also caught between Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s vision for the party and the state (there were reports/allegations that he was controlling everything from Delhi) and his conflicts with his mentor Subhash Velingkar – Goa’s former RSS chief (who is also back to the fold, by the way).

Velingkar, who formed his own party and was removed from his position in RSS, went back to the mothership disbanding his new outfit, with all the RSS workers who had joined him. He explained to the media that he only wanted the BJP to learn a lesson. He has also repeated his stand about English Medium Schools and his demand for schooling in local language Konkani/Marathi. “When we stepped out of the RSS hierarchy, our objective was to teach the Goa BJP, which was destroying the core of RSS teachings, a lesson in the Assembly elections. We have succeeded in doing that. Our mission in that sense is complete. The BJP leaders should realise that they should never take the RSS for granted,” Mr. Velingkar was reported as saying. Frankly if teaching the BJP a lesson (and not schooling in local language) was his objective, then Velingkar has succeeded more than convincingly.  BJP's tally halved from 26 in 2012 to 13 in 2017 and Congress' nearly doubled from nine to 17. 

Even as Parsekar has submitted his resignation to the governor and Congress has excitedly huddled into a marathon meeting over how to stake the claim to form the government, who should be the chief ministerial candidate, Goans are staring at a hung assembly and perhaps all that comes with it.

Faleiro’s son-in-law, speaking on his behalf told Outlook, “We are humbled by the verdict that has come out. It is the victory of people of Goa and they stand to gain much from this.”  

Digambar Kamat, who defeated BJP candidate Sharmad Pai Raiturcar by 4,900 votes, has promised a full-fledged hospital for south Goa. PTI reported him as saying, “The BJP-led government tried to harass me. They filed fake cases against me. They tried to jail me. Only God protected me. I attribute my victory to all my party workers who stood by me and reposed their faith in me." The bribery allegation against him was typical of what has been pushing Congress on a backfoot since 2014 - a big international company driven infrastructure project with allegations of kickbacks and the works.  

After speaking to several locals, it seemed as if Goans were not singularly focused on the agenda of Casinos or schooling in local language or even corruption for that matter. While they were critical of one and all, they seemed to miss the employment opportunities that the previous government may have created and were irritated with Parrikar (yes, more than Parsekar). “Even if the Congress was corrupt, they created jobs for youth,” one autorickshaw driver had told me. Perhaps it is that hope, in times of demonetized tourist industry and slowing or at best, slowly-growing economy, that has made Goans go for Congress. Is the grand old party, which is far from grand at the moment, listening? Because Goa and Punjab are the only states through which they could hope to remain relevant in national politics.