Will Parrikar's Saxtti army pass the litmus test?

SANDESH PRABHUDESAI, PANAJI | 07 April 2014 22:24 IST

More than the Bharatiya Janata Party, it is a litmus test for all the Salcete MLAs supporting the BJP as well as those independents (advantage BJP), contesting in the South Goa Lok Sabha poll.

Barring only twice in the 14 Parliamentary polls held in the constituency till date, the seat is always won either by the Congress or the Salcete-supported candidate belonging to the minority community.

The only exceptions were Mukund Shinkre in 1963 when Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party was ruling with land reforms brought by Goa’s first chief minister Bhausaheb Bandodkar and Ramakant Angle of the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1999.

In spite of having ‘secret blessing’ of the Church in 1999, BJP’s Angle could not score over in a single constituency of Salcete, except Margao and Fatorda. The only advantage he had was in Mormugao taluka, with a lead in all the three Assembly segments – Vasco, Mormugao and even Cortalim.

The different between BJP’s Angle and Congress’ Joaquim Alemao was huge, with BJP polling less than 25 per cent votes in six Assembly segments of Salcete.

Though Dr Wilfred de Souza was another contestant in South Goa in 1999, the combination of both Joaquim and Dr Willy (1.02 lakh) could not overscore the BJP (1.06 lakh) votes.

But the Church, who had once again favoured Manohar Parrikar’s BJP in last Assembly poll held two years ago, has taken a clear-cut stand (though not openly) that the BJP this time belongs to Narendra Modi, the communal face of the saffron brigade.

But at the same time, the BJP has six MLAs from Salcete and Mormugao on its side – two BJP from Vasco (Carlos Monteiro) and Cortalim (minister Alina Saldanha), two Goa Vikas Party from Nuvem (Mickky Pacheco) and Benaulim (Caitu Silva) and two independents – Navelim (minister Avertan Furtado) and Velim (Benjamin Silva).

In addition, the whole block of Congress MLA Mauvin Godinho from Dabolim stands suspended for openly supporting BJP candidate Narendra Savoikar.

His second attempt to make a debut in the Parliament could also succeed if Churchill Alemao in the name of Trinamool and Shalom Sardinha also eat up sizeable number of Congress votes.

Salcete becomes a crucial factor to win South Goa seat since eight Assembly segments in this Christian-dominated taluka wiped out all the lead the BJP garnered in 2009 Lok Sabha poll in four talukas and eight Assembly segments, including Vasco and Mormugao from Mormugao taluka.

Savoikar was leading by total 16,725 votes in these eight Assembly segments. But one Salcete taluka washed away this lead as sitting MP Francisco Sardinha was leading there by 27,474 votes while adding 1836 lead in Mormugao taluka, making it a total lead of 29,310.

 

The scenario in the 2012 Assembly poll was however a reverse trend. The BJP alone had a lead of 65,356 votes in South Goa. The Congress survived only in four Assembly segments – Margao, Curtorim, Dabolim and Quepem, with a total lead of only 6516 votes.

The non-Congress and non-BJP candidates got a lead of yet another 31,439 in five more Assembly segments. Barring Vijay Sardesai’s Fatorda (17,905 lead), the rest four are still with the BJP – Mickky, Caitu, Avertan and Benjamin.

But it is also a fact that they did not dare to contest as the BJP candidates and could get votes on anti-Congressism and not love for the BJP. It thus needs to be seen how many votes these four MLAs try and get ‘for the BJP’ this time when anti-Modi feelings are hyped in Salcete.

On the other hand, almost all the anti-BJP forces, including traditional anti-Congress elements like Radharao Gracias, have rallied around Aleixo Reginald Lourenco of the Congress.

To add fuel to the fire, Govind Gaude from the scheduled tribes is also contesting as an independent, obviously to damage the BJP’s vote bank in Quepem, Sanguem, Canacona, Shiroda and Marcaim.

Being in power, the BJP is also hit by the mining ban as the mining dependents in Sanguem, Sanvordem and Curchorem are upset with the ruling party in spite of Parrikar government giving dolls to the truck owners, barge operators and the workers.

Unlike in the past when Angle contested in 1999 and Savoikar in 2009, the BJP is today in power, having 16 out of total Assembly segments with it while also having advantage of pro-people schemes like no VAT on petrol, Griha Adhar for housewives and Laadli Laxmi for young girls.

While chief minister Manohar Parrikar’s attempt to make the Church happy by continuing government grants to their English medium primary schools had borne no fruits, his stand for both Mopa and Dabolim however has boomeranged on him, in South Goa in general and Salcete in particular.

It is thus development versus Modi, Mopa versus Dabolim and ruling MLAs versus the people in the South today.

If Parrikar overcomes this litmus test, he would not only add one more seat to make Modi the prime minister but may also change the traditional political equations in Salcete, may be for many more elections!

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