WILL ‘TINA’ SAVE THE DAY FOR BJP?
With a clear division in traditional votes, and an Opposition in disarray, the BJP looks the frontrunner
On December 28, when they gathered at the archbishop’s palace in Panaji for the annual Christmas reception, Defence minister Manohar Parrikar and Goa chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar had no idea of what was to unfold. Goa archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao, whom the duo consider their well-wisher, was at his caustic best. “What we see is extensive environmental and social damage to Goa, which has led to rampant corruption and weakened governance,” Ferrao said in his address, leaving the BJP leaders red-faced. Annoyed, they left the venue soon after.
The archbishop’s comments brought things full circle as far as ties between the Church and the BJP are concerned. Exactly five years ago, fed up with the widespread loot by the Digambar Kamat-led Congress government, the archbishop had appealed to the state’s 27 per cent Roman Catholics to vote for change. Today, the Church says, “the people are sovereign, they will decide”, but the message is clear once again.
As the assembly polls near, the BJP is fighting a war on two fronts. It has to neutralise former ally, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which has tied up with the rebel Sangh group, the Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM), on the issue of Konkani pride against the BJP’s alleged Christian appeasement. The GSM is a new entrant, but its supporters are miffed ex-BJP voters, upset that the party has not kept its promise of scrapping grants to English medium schools (a majority of them are Church-run). Meanwhile, the party is also losing the support of the Christians.
That said, the BJP is still likely to emerge as the single largest party after the February 4 polls, though it may fall short of a simple majority. And it’s thanks to a disintegrating Congress and the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which might attract the affluent Christians in south Goa. Meanwhile, the GSM’s joining hands with the MGP may work against it as Hindu voters see the latter as an opportunist party with little credibility. (That said, in north Goa, it could hurt the BJP’s chances.)
The BJP’s main plank to retain power is its many development projects, including the 14 new bridges, and the country’s first garbage treatment plant in north Goa. Also, the opposition’s inability to make any corruption charges stick works to its advantage. Parsekar is keen on getting the Christian vote to the BJP side. He even persuaded Parrikar to shift the venue of the (October 2016) BRICS summit from north Goa to south Goa so that the businesses in the south, mostly Christian-run, could benefit.
The Congress, meanwhile, is a broken house with half of its nine legislators in a rebellious mood. The only remaining influential Congressman is former CM Kamat, and he is facing corruption charges too. The initial AAP wave is also petering out. AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal has been blowing hot and cold on the casino ban issue as he knows a big number of the local youth are employed in the state’s 15 casinos. It hasn’t gone down well.