Featured

Congress Emerges Single Largest Party While AAP Draws a Blank in Goa

Meanwhile, the BJP’s incumbent chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar and five of its ministers lost their seats.

Congress supporters celebrate in Goa. Credit: PTI

Congress supporters celebrate in Goa. Credit: PTI

Panaji: Saffron may have won in Uttar Pradesh, but it failed to significantly retain power at India’s popular tourist destination. The Congress – which had suffered its worst defeat in decades in the last election – emerged the single largest party in Goa, taking 18 seats (including an independent) in a house of 40. The BJP, which had a simple majority of 21 in 2012, managed just 13 seats and has the support on one independent.

Meanwhile, AAP, which had made a strong bid for a political breakthrough in Goa by contesting 39 of the 40 seats – more than any other party – drew a blank.

All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Digvijaya Singh said the party would stake the claim to form the government early tomorrow after a meeting of its core committee with the elected MLAs. The BJP had lost the moral right to try to make a bid for power, Singh said, reacting to the rumour that the saffron party was possibly trying to win over the two local parties to its side. But the Congress’s claim, as well as the political stability of this state, now hinges largely on the two regional parties – Goa Forward (GF) and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) – which have won three seats each. The NCP claimed one seat and is expected to throw its lot in with the Congress.

At a press conference after the BJP’s poor showing, outgoing chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar, who was soundly defeated, said he feared the fractured mandate would bring instability and “affect development” in Goa in the next five years. This statement signals that the BJP could still try and make a bid for power, trying to cobble up the numbers. Parsekar also took consolation from the fact that the BJP had managed a higher share of the vote (32.9%) than the Congress (27.9%).

So far, neither the GF nor the MGP have revealed their hand – though the MGP did announce before the counting that in the event of a hung assembly, they would most likely prefer to align with the BJP. The MGP, which broke off its alliance with the BJP before this poll, has been in government with the Congress in the past as well. GF, a breakaway from the Congress, is most likely to tilt to the side that makes it the best offer given its recent fallout with some Congress leaders like Goa PCC president Luizinho Faleiro. GF MLA Vijai Sardessai is known to drive a hard bargain and sees himself as chief minister material.

The strongest message from the electorate appeared to have been directed at a number of the BJP’s stalwarts – many of them staunch RSS men like Parsekar and speaker Rajendra Arlekar who were resoundingly defeated. Four other ministers also bit the dust. For a party that just a few elections ago had a hard time convincing minorities to contest on the Lotus symbol, the BJP was in fact well served by its Catholic faces. Seven of the 13 BJP MLAs who won are Catholics. One of them, Mauvin Godinho, crossed sides from the Congress just a few weeks before the election and finds himself on the losing side once again.

Though Arvind Kejriwal had drawn a lot of media attention after his well-attended public rally in Panaji in May last year, AAP seemed to have been taken in by its own spin and divorced from ground realities. In most constituencie,  the party didn’t even touch four digit figures. But AAP did damage the Congress to some extent – Congress’s vote share slumped to 27.9% to the BJP’s 32.9%. The AAP debuted with 6.1% of the vote.

And if one thought politicians have a shelf life, those elected on the Congress side proved otherwise. The party fielded and brought back to power a number of ‘senior’ leaders, among them former chief minister Pratapsingh Rane (who will touch a half century in the Goa house sometime later this term), Faleiro (who returns to state politics from his AICC venture), former chief ministers Ravi Naik and Digambar Kamat, and another old hand Isidore Fernandes, not to mention Churchill Alemao of the NCP. As Singh said, with anti-incumbency trailing the BJP, what seemed paramount in the voters’ mind in Goa was a change of government – particularly after the numerous U-turns by the BJP in the last term.