New entrant and alliances change the poll landscape
As things stand, it is the BJP, made up of more than half the MLAs brought over from the Congress post the 2017 elections, versus two coalitions -- the Congress and Goa Forward Party, and new entrant Trinamool Congress and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be fighting anti-incumbency and the loss of its tallest leader Manohar Parrikar when the state goes to the polls next month against an Opposition fractured by new entrants but is buoyed by the winds of change after being out of power for two terms. Add to this another peculiar factor -- a state whose electoral politics has become infamous for leaders switching sides is now clamouring for candidates who will not waver on their pre-poll allegiances. It’s in this backdrop that Goa will vote for the 40 seats that form the state assembly on February 14.
As things stand, it is the BJP, made up of more than half the MLAs brought over from the Congress post the 2017 elections, versus two coalitions -- the Congress and Goa Forward Party, and new entrant Trinamool Congress and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party. The Aam Aadmi Party, much like the BJP so far, is fighting it alone. Goa politics has been through a tumultuous five years. Twenty-three of the state’s 40 MLAs are today in parties different from the one they were elected from in 2017. Though the BJP finished second in 2017, with 13 seats, its lowest tally since 2000 , with Parrikar at the helm the party was able to form the government after winning over the Goa Forward Party and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, who joined forces on condition that the then Union defence minister, returned to Goa as the CM. The Congress, which was the biggest loser in the defections -- winning 17 seats but ending up sitting on the opposition benches -- has vowed to oust the BJP this time with candidates who are “known for their integrity”.
“This election will be different from previous ones because of the added attention that will be on Goa both to view the performance of the TMC as well as because Goa has earned itself renewed interest in the national landscape,” said veteran journalist Sandesh Prabhudesai, who wrote a book on Goa’s elections, Ajeeb Goa’s Gajab Politics released a week ago.
The incumbent chief minister Pramod Sawant is facing a wave of anti-incumbency --in part for his handling of the Covid pandemic, and in part for a strong pro-Hindutva stance in a state with a 25% Catholic population that holds sway in at least 17 of the 40 seats.
Other issues set to dominate the poll season are environmental -- infrastructure projects cutting through the Western Ghats, and the fears from activists that Goa is becoming a coal hub to fuel steel plants in northern Karnataka.