Did Congress help BJP to win ?

SANDESH PRABHUDESAI, PANAJI | 07 October 1999 16:52 IST

The clean sweep by the Bharatiya Janata Party in Goa, winning both the seats, is a real blow to the Congress, the national party having supremacy over the tourist state for the last two decades.

It is still in power here even after the recently held Assembly polls in June. But the latest result is a clear indication that their mass base is being eroded day by day even after major groups from the two major regional outfits joined the ruling party after the local House was constituted.

"I expected these results", claims chief minister Luizinho Faleiro, taking shelter of the excuses like less time for campaigning, Kargil fervour and local political factors, besides heavy showers on the polling day, while analysing his defeat.

"No doubt image of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Kargil victory helped us. But frustration of the people against Faleiro's dictatorial rule also got translated into confidence being expressed in us", feels Shripad Naik, the MP-elect.

But is it merely these factors that helped the BJP to win with such surprising margins or was it a ploy by the Congress leaders as well as its 'traditional sympathisers' who turned the wind against their own ruling party ?

The Bharatiya Janata Party was a non-entity in Goa's politics till it entered the state Assembly in 1994 by forging an alliance with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party. They were hardly getting two to three per cent votes when they used to contest Lok Sabha polls in '84 and '89.

But the picture started changing from '91 Lok Sabha polls, when the issues like Ram Mandir helped them to woo the 60 per cent Hindu population here, swinging 16 per cent of it in their favour.

But neither the following Lok Sabha polls of '96 nor of '98 could help them crossing 30 per cent mark, mainly because the Hindu population here remained divided among the Congress, the MGP and the BJP while the Congress continued hijacking en-bloc 30 per cent Catholic vote bank.

The non-existence of the MGP in the Lok Sabha polls for the first time in Goa's history has also helped the BJP tremendously in swinging the Hindu vote bank fully in their favour while Khalap failed to retain his former MGP vote bank.

With the BJP now polling 51 per cent votes and leaving only 39 per cent for the ruling Congress, Faleiro admits that the hostility of the Church towards his party also helped the BJP to win. "People in these areas did not go to vote", he says.

In fact it is a fact that the turnout in Catholic-dominated areas, especially the Salcete taluka in South Goa, was very poor and several voters went home straight after the mass on Sunday, the polling day, though the polling booths were just behind the Church.

In order to defeat Congress candidate Joaquim Alemao, brother of controversial minister Churchill Alemao and marginalise Dr Wilfred de Souza, South Goa's NCP candidate and former chief minister, it is learnt that many priests told the Catholics to vote for the BJP.

Though nobody talks about it, the voting figures speak. BJP candidate Ramakant Angle polled more votes than the existing Hindu population in several Catholic-dominated areas. The BJP leaders however claim that Catholics voted their candidates, getting convinced that it is the real secular party.

But the Congress candidates speak little different language. According to former union minister Ramakant Khalap, who got defeated despite contesting on Congress ticket time from North Goa, feels he was victim of the infighting within the Congress. Alemao has also charged all the party legislators for backstabbing him.

Even Faleiro admits that non-expansion of the cabinet was the main issue haunting the campaign trail. Results show that the BJP got an edge in 16 out of 25 Assembly segments represented by the Congress.

While the BJP has demanded that Faleiro should resign owing moral responsibility of the defeat, the chief minister is busy preparing report to be sent to the high command, complaining about all those party colleagues who worked to defeat the party.

Whether it is the infighting within the Congress or the pro-BJP wave which had swept the country, the reality today is that the BJP has emerged as a force to reckon with in Goan politics, having one fourth of the state Assembly and both the MPs with them.

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