Will 'Didi' impact Goa’s Babas, Bhaus, Bhaiees, Patraos & Bosses?

Sandesh Prabhudesai, Panaji | 29 September 2021 20:31 IST

What happens when a nationally famed political party enters the election fray in Goa? The debate has started once again as Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress has announced to stage a comeback in the 2022 Assembly poll, with veteran ‘Congress’ leader Luizinho Faleiro belling the cat.

Will it sideline the Indian National Congress and pose a ‘real’ threat to the Bharatiya Janata Party? Will the magic wand of master election strategist Prashant Kishor make a big difference? Will the Goan voter prefer Didi to our traditional Babas, Bhaus, Bhaiees, Patraos and Bosses?

Well, we will know who is in, only when the election result is out. But till then, we could certainly analyse how the Goan voter has reacted in the past when such situations arose. Was there an earthquake, or just a quack quack…?

Laying down on our balcao or sopo or with a ‘cop’ in our hand at the tea shop or at the tavern, let’s peep into the past since the actual battle on the ground is still five months away.

It’s not the first time the TMC has entered Goa’s electoral arena. The Bengali Didi was there in the historic 2012 Assembly election, and also in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Like Luizinho Faleiro today, it was also led by equally heavyweight politicians like Dr Wilfred de Souza and Churchill Alemao.

Since we have enough time to think, introspect, analyse, judge and make a wise decision, let’s go down memory lane right from the first Assembly election of Goa, held in 1963, 58 years ago…

The ‘Regional’ Congress

Do you know that the all-powerful Congress, led in those days by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, was completely wiped out in the first-ever poll held in Goa in 1963? It seems the local Congress leaders led by Purushottam Kakodkar had even distributed ministerial portfolios as soon as the election was announced. And what was the outcome? The Nehru-led party was pushed down to the third position, with 19 out of 28 candidates losing their deposits, forget winning any seat. (Goa, as a union territory had 28 seats with one each in Daman and Diu till the 1984 election). In spite of having veteran freedom fighters, influential Bhatkars (landlords) and filthy rich mine owners as their candidates, the party that liberated Goa could not get more than 17 per cent votes. Bhausaheb Bandodkar’s Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) swept the poll by winning 16 seats (two of Praja Socialist Party it had tied up with) while Dr Jack Sequeira-led United Goans Party (UGP) won 12 seats.

Purushottam Kakodkar

It was such a shock that the oldest national party ruling the whole nation as well as all the states except Kerala, did not contest the following  1967 Assembly election. And when it dared to contest the poll once again in 1972, the vote share came down to 10 per cent. It could somehow find 18 candidates, out of which eight lost their deposits. Once again it was 'duck'ed out!

The real big surprise was in 1977, which is considered to be India’s real THE election that exhibited its democratic power. People all across India reacted sharply to Indira Gandhi’s brutal Emergency of 21 months and made her bite the dust. Janata Party - the united opposition - swept the Lok Sabha poll by winning 295 seats (Left Front won 29 more) in the 542-seat Lok Sabha. The Congress could not cross 154. And at this crucial juncture, Congress made a debut in the Goa Assembly, by winning 10 seats out of 28 and the South Goa Lok Sabha seat was won by Eduardo Faleiro, the Congress MP for the first time.

How did it happen? The minority group of the UGP led by Dr Jack Sequeira rode on the Janata wave while the seven-member UGP led by Babu Naik in the Assembly and at the organisational level by Dr Wilfred de Souza joined the INC. Pratapsing Rane, a minister in the MGP government, also resigned and joined the national party.

Before the 1980 Assembly election, Congress split at the national level into Congress (Indira) and Congress (Urs). Goa’s Congress leaders joined the Congress (Urs). The young rebels also toppled Shashikala Kakodkar’s MGP government and joined the bandwagon. More UGP men also joined.  The Congress (Urs) lost nationally, but swept the Goa Assembly election with a vote share of 63 per cent and by doubling its score – 20 seats! The Congress (Indira), in spite of having seat adjustments with the Congress (U), lost all the six seats it contested and could gain only 17 per cent votes. However, since Indira swept the Lok Sabha poll nationally by winning 353 seats, all the ‘loyal soldiers’ of Devaraj Urs shouted ‘Indira is India’ and joined her along with the other five MGP MLAs and three independent MLAs. The MGP was left as a two-member opposition in the Assembly, with Ramakant Khalap and Babuso Gaonkar.

Since then, the ‘hybrid graft’ of the MGP and the UGP, has been ruling Goa in the name of Congress!

Click here to watch a table in pdf

Saffrons ride on the Lion

The BJP is no different. Before merging its identity into the Janata Party post-emergency, the Jan Sangh had entered Goa to contest the 1972 poll, fighting nine seats. They could garner only 1103 votes (0.36%). After being with the Janata Party in the 1977 and 1980 elections, the national party started contesting in Goa once again as the BJP. The 1984 (16 candidates) and 1989 (7 candidates) were real disasters with a miserable vote share of two per cent.

The party came alive only when it joined hands with the MGP in 1994. Four BJP men led by Manohar Parrikar made a debut in the Assembly, from among 12 seats they contested. Shading out its ‘pure saffron’ colour, the party started swelling its strength by winning over the MGP’s Bahujan vote bank, and also by replacing Hindutva with Good Governance.

Manohar Parrirkar

While supporting and also joining the governments of Congress defectors led by its Christian leaders like Dr Wilfred de Souza and Francisco Sardinha, Parrikar became the chief minister, for the first time in October 2000, of the Congress rebels, with his BJP strength of one fourth – 10 MLAs. It rose to 17 in 2002 and slipped down to 14 in 2007.

The real victory of the BJP was the historic 2012 election – the magic figure of 21 in the 40-member House and a vote share of 50 per cent! Six of its MLAs were Christians. And in 2017, the BJP had the majority of MLAs from the minority community – seven out of 13. Today, after a series of defections, its strength has swollen to 27, out of which 15 belong to the minority community.

The ‘pitiable’ Socialists

Socialist parties at the national level had two stints in Goa. The first one was when the MGP ruled Goa. The Praja Socialist Party (PSP) had a tie-up with the MGP in the 1963 poll. Besides giving his own North Goa Parliamentary seat to Peter Alvares, Bhausaheb Bandodkar, at the last minute, supported two PSP men – Jaisingrao V Rane in Sattari and Gajanan Raikar in Ponda and rose them to victory. Having differences arisen with the MGP, the PSP went alone with only eight candidates in 1967 and four candidates in 1972. They could not gain more than 3000 votes (one per cent) each in both the polls.

The second stint was the post-emergency election of 1977. As a combined opposition against mighty Indira Gandhi, the Socialists hand-in-hand with the RSS brigade entered the electoral fray in Goa, riding on a nationwide anti-Indira wave. They contested all the 30 seats of Goa, Daman and Diu, but could garner mere 23 per cent votes and win only three seats – Dr Jack Sequeira from St Cruz, Madhav Bir from Panaji and Ferdino Rebello from Cuncolim. Almost 11 candidates lost their deposits. While the national party kept on breaking into several factions, they went on trying their luck in Goa as the Janata Party, Janata Dal, Janata Dal (United), Socialist Party etc etc. But only once in 1989, they gained 10 per cent votes. Twice, it was even one per cent  (see the table).

The ‘Nationalist’, with & without ‘Congress’

Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party was not built in Goa from the grassroots level. It was superimposed by rebel Congress leader Dr Wilfred de Souza, in order to pose an alternative to the Congress. He had revolted in 1998 to topple the three-year-old Congress government led by his arch-rival Pratapsing Rane and form an alternate government led by his Goa Rajiv Congress, with outside support from the four-member BJP. He lost the majority within four months and the Congress government was restored, this time led by Luizinho Faleiro. But Faleiro also lost the majority within 77 days and President’s Rule was imposed, paving way for a fresh election.

Dr Wilfred de Souza

Dotor Willy’s GRC contested 14 seats but won only two – he from Saligao and Francisco D’Souza making his debut from Mapusa. Many bigwigs lost, including Nilkanth Halarnkar (Tivim), Chandrakant Chodankar (Siolim), Fatima D’Sa (Aldona), Surendra Furtado (Panaji), William Gonsalves (St Cruz), Carmo Pegado (St Andre), John Manuel Vaz (Mormugao), Martha Saldanha (Cortalim) and Manu Fernandes (Velim). Some of them were either former MLAs or long-serving Sarpanchas.  The GRC could garner hardly 18 per cent votes. After witnessing repeated hung Assemblies, Congress swept the poll by winning 21 seats, making Faleiro once again the chief minister.

As this formula did not work, Dr Willy, in the 2002 election, persuaded Sharad Pawar to enter Goa. But the experiment of bringing another party ‘from within the Congress family’ was a bigger fiasco than the GRC. Except for Dr Willy himself in Saligao, no one could win. Francisco D’Souza also shifted over to the BJP. The vote share in 20 seats they contested was hardly 11 per cent. Dotor himself had a tough fight with his own former PA (personal assistant) Trajano D’Mello as the Congress candidate and won with a meagre margin of 726 seats. That too with votes getting split in a multi-cornered battle (Independent Dilip Kalangutkar polled 1677 votes in the Hindu-dominated constituency). Nilkanth Halarnkar (Tivim), Chandrakant Chodankar (Siolim) and Carmo Pegado (St Andre) lost once again besides former MLAs Jose Philip D’Souza (Vasco), Arecio D’Souza (Cuncolim) and Vaikunth Desai (Curchorem).

By 2007, Dr Willy came to terms and aligned with his parent party by contesting only six seats, where they polled 34 per cent votes. But Dotor could not save his Saligao seat. BJP’s Dilip Parulekar seized it. The newly elected NCP leaders Nilkanth Halarnkar (Tivim), Jose Philip D’Souza (Vasco) and Mickey Pacheco (Benaulim) took over the reins of the party. The alliance continued also in the 2012 election with the NCP contesting seven seats. The vote share slipped down to 25 per cent. Everybody lost including former ministers Suresh Parulekar and Jose Philip D’Souza as well as Family-Raj fame Yuri Alemao.

In the last Assembly poll of 2017, the alliance broke. The NCP had to go alone. Contested 17 seats. Except for Churchill Alemao who won the Benaulim seat, everybody else even lost their deposits. In spite of Churchill polling 44 per cent of votes, the overall voting percentage in the 17 places was only five per cent. These included former MLAs Jose Philip D’Souza (Vasco) and Pratap Gauns (Sankhli).  

Click here to watch the table in pdf

Bengali ‘Trina’ (Grass) searching ‘mool’ (roots)

Where was Dr Willy after he lost his four-term long Saligao fort in 2007? In 2012, leaving Pawar’s Maharashtra, he flew all the way to Kolkata and persuaded Mamata Banerjee. Trinamool Congress entered Goa for the first time, contesting 20 seats. Including himself, he once again had with him political bigwigs like Pandurang Raut (Bicholim), Piedade Noronha (Fatorda), Savio Coutinho (Margao) as well as young industrialist-turned-politician Sameer Salgaocar (Mandrem). Except for Salgaocar who polled 18 per cent of votes (though he lost), not a single candidate was preferred by not more than four per cent of voters. Perhaps for the first time in their political lives, both Dr Willy and Raut polled hardly three per cent votes. That was the end of Dr Willy’s political career!

Didi’s charisma was once again tried also by heavyweight Churchill Alemao in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, to contest from South Goa. History repeated. Even Churchill did not get more than three per cent of votes from the entire South Goa. Since then, Churchill, who had polled 55 per cent votes in 2004 to become the MP, has not contested the Lok Sabha poll.

AAP ayee, Bahar gayi (आप आई, बाहर गई)

Also came with a bang was Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in 2017, making tall claims of replicating the Delhi model and winning 35 out of 40 seats in the 2017 election. Earlier, it had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha poll in Goa but did not gain more than three to four per cent votes. However, the impressive rally it had in Panaji six months before the election stunned everybody including the politicians and political analysts. In fact, the Kautilya survey predicted that AAP would win 17 seats while other surveys forecast a minimum of two to four.

The actual election result was more stunning than the predictions. AAP did not win a single seat. Except for Royla Fernandes in Benaulim, all other 38 candidates lost their deposits, including their chief ministerial candidate Elvis Gomes in Cuncolim. The vote share was just six per cent. Thirteen among them could not garner more than three per cent votes.

Arvind Kejriwal with a 'kopel' of Sao Jao feast

Equally tragic was the Lok Sabha poll that followed in 2019. Chief ministerial face Elvis Gomes could not get more than five per cent votes in the whole of South Goa. And in the North, it was just one per cent! The Goan voter literally ‘broom’ed them out!!

Left was left long ago…

The CPI and CPM, who control over 80 per cent of trade unions in Goa, have been jointly contesting the elections since the first election of 1963. It was Fronte Popular in the first election and then the Left Front till date. It has not missed a single election to date, except in 1967.

CPI leader Christopher Fonseca

Meanwhile, the left leaders also came to power at the Centre and Comrades became the union ministers. But it didn’t make any difference to the Goan voter. The vote share of these parties was not more than one to seven per cent. The workers are still behind them; but as the voters, they have ‘left’ their Comrades long ago….

Will 2022 create a new history?


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