Goa Elections: BJP Has Its Nose Ahead, But Not By Much
BJP may just about manage to form a government with this tally with the support of independent candidates and by attracting any of the regional players in lieu of ministerial berths.
In the February 2017 election cycle, Goa stands out. It is a small state with barely 11.5 lakh voters. The assembly has 40 seats and hence each seat is really a micro-election of about 20,000-25,000 votes if 80 per cent votes are cast – similar in scale or even smaller than a ward election in large metro cities.
Given this small vote size of each assembly seat, any macro analysis – typically done by pollsters using statistical sampling techniques – can easily go wrong. Even if the vote share analysis is largely in line, converting that vote share to seats is not an easy task.
This is not to say that there aren’t any broad election themes in Goa. There are of course issues, which relate to the state in its entirety. For the 2017 elections, key themes with which most Goans are likely to relate to are around the trifecta of governance, infrastructure and identity.
The government of Laxmikant Parsekar faces the anti-incumbency heat. BJP has been governing the state since 2012. Parsekar filled the big shoes of Manohar Parrikar when he moved to Delhi as the Defense Minister of India. It was never going to be an easy task and he hasn’t been able to create the same hold on administration and the electorate as Parrikar had done. Permitting mining in state in a way that protects ecology as well as boosts revenues and jobs has always been a sticking point.
Proliferation of casinos is another vexatious issue. The location and timing of Mopa airport being built in the extreme north of Goa will be played up by the BJP in Maharashtra-bordering constituencies, which are not its strongholds. And finally there is the language identity issue where the government has not kept its promise of promoting Konkani and Marathi, continuing the support for English language education. Due to the language controversy, the former head of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Goa, Subhash Velingkar revolted and created his own political formation Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) ahead of the election. GSM has since allied with BJP erstwhile alliance partner Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP). Velingkar is incidentally considered the political godfather of the entire first generation of BJP Goa’s senior leaders including Manohar Parrikar, Shripad Naik, Laxmikant Parsekar, Dayanand Mandrekar and Rajendra Arlekar.
Despite these larger common strands of vote influence, each of the 40 seats in Goa is a microcosm of its own. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continues to be one pole of the Goan politics. Challenging BJP is the Congress (INC) along with reluctant allies Goa Forward Party (GF) and United Goans Party (UG), Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGB) and Goa Suraj Party (GSP). In Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Goa is witnessing the debut of another political option this time. AAP hopes to capitalise on another bottom up election just like it did in Delhi and its national head Arvind Kejriwal is leaving no stone unturned in reaching out to the Goan voters. GSM sympathisers working directly or indirectly against the BJP will be another influencing factor. Then there are a host of locally-powerful Independents (IND), who have always been a force to reckon with in Goa.
So, for a small vote base of 20,000, each seat may witness four or five strong candidates hoping to go past the winning post. With this math, the victory margin in each seat is likely to be very thin – much thinner than the 2012 election, when BJP prevailed comfortably in most of its strongholds. It will be interesting to look at a seat by seat picture to understand how the state is likely to vote this time.
Mandrem (2012 – BJP, 2017 Prediction (P) – BJP)
Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar will be contesting this seat. While the GSM head Subhash Velingkar has vowed to see him defeated and he does hold a strong influence on this seat, Parsekar may win by a narrow margin.
Pernem (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – MGP)
There is substantial anti-incumbency against sitting BJP MLA and Minister Rajendra Arlekar. BJP actually considered dropping him but his seniority and loyalty seem to have prevailed. GSM’s Subhash Velingkar has strong influence in this area and despite benefits of the Mopa airport in this region, MGP is likely to win.
Bicholim (2012 – IND, 2017 P – MGP)
The sitting Independent MLA Naresh Sawal has joined the MGP. The BJP candidate Rajesh Patnekar won this seat in 2002 and 2007 but moved to Congress in 2012. He is now back with his old party, but may not be able to prevail over Sawal in this former MGP stronghold.
Tivim (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – BJP)
This seat typically alternates between Congress and BJP. However, sitting MLA Kiran Kandolkar is likely to win against Congress candidate and ex-MLA Nilkanth Halarnkar.
Mapusa (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – BJP)
This seat is the stronghold of Francis D’Souza, the incumbent BJP MLA. He has won this seat four times, three times with BJP. He will face MGP’s Vinod Phadke, whose involvement with the Goa Cricket Association has been controversial.
Siolim (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – BJP)
Dayanand Mandrekar, the sitting BJP MLA has won four times from this seat. His main contender will be GF candidate Vinod Palyekar. Despite the anti-incumbency, Mandrekar is expected to retain this seat yet again.
Saligao (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – GF)
Saligao used to be the seat of three-time Goa Chief Minister Wilfred D’Souza until Dilip Parulekar of BJP won it in the last two elections. Congress delayed its candidate (Agnelo Fernandes) announcement on this seat, and has effectively outsourced the fight to Jayesh Salgaonkar of GF, who may defeat Parulekar.
Calangute (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – BJP)
Michael Lobo of BJP won in 2012 from this traditional Congress seat. He is now expected to hold it again, contesting against Joseph Sequeira of Congress.
Porvorim (2012 – IND, 2017 P – IND)
This seat was created in the 2012 delimitation exercise. Although BJP should have won it then, the internal party struggle led to independent candidate Rohan Khaunte to prevail. He has since then created a hold in this constituency and is likely to retain it though BJP is making a fight out of it this time.
Aldona (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – BJP)
Aldona was a Congress bastion which was smashed in 2012 elections with BJP young turk Glenn Ticlo defeating tainted former minister and sitting MLA Dayanand Narvekar. This time, Congress has given ticket to a new face Amarnath Panjikar but winning the seat back looks difficult against Ticlo.
Panaji (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – UG)
Panaji was always a BJP bastion but is set to see a stiff battle this time around. With Parrikar moving to the Centre, his seat was won by his erstwhile joint secretary, Siddharth Kuncalienkar, in the by-election and he is in the fray yet again. However, Babush Monserrate fighting under UG banner, who controls the Panaji Corporation, is likely to prevail. He has traditionally backed-off from taking Parrikar head-on. Although withdrawal of GSM candidate Raju Sukerkar will give some respite to the BJP, Monserrate may wrest this prestigious seat from BJP after a 23-year run.
Taleigao (2012 – INC, 2017 P – BJP)
Dattaprasad Naik of BJP will take on Jennifer Monserrate, Congress candidate and wife of Babush Monserrate. The presence of Cecille Rodrigues of AAP is likely to divide votes in a way that Naik benefits.
Santa Cruz (2012 – INC, 2017 P – INC)
This seat was held by Babush Monserrate for INC last time. Tony Fernandes, his nominated candidate, may just about prevail in this election in this predominantly Catholic constituency. Independent candidate Rodolfo Fernandes might however give Tony a tough fight.
Cumbarjua (2012 – INC, 2017 P – BJP)
BJP and MGP, the 2012 allies, were both vying to attract Pandurang Madkaikar, the sitting MLA of INC for this seat. He has since joined BJP and got the ticket at cost of the son of Union Ayush Minister, Shripad Naik. He is expected to win the seat for BJP.
Mayem (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – BJP)
This is a strong BJP seat, which it has lost only once in the last 20 years. BJP has also taken a bold action in replacing the two-time MLA and Assembly Speaker Anant Shet with Pravin Zantye. He is expected to retain the seat for the party as Shet’s initial rebellion has fizzled out.
Sanquelim (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – BJP)
This seat was carved out in the 2012 delimitation and is a traditional BJP stronghold. Sitting MLA Pramod Sawant is expected to win over the erstwhile BJP MLA Suresh Amonkar now contesting on a MGP ticket.
Poriem (2012 – INC, 2017 P – INC)
Pratapsing Rane has been winning this constituency for the last 40 years without any opposition and 2017 should see a repeat. BJP has fielded its 2012 candidate again and seems unlikely to make much headway.
Valpoi (2012 – INC, 2017 P – INC)
Pratapsing Rane's son Vishwajeet has been the sitting MLA for last 10 years and absence of a strong competitor should help him win yet again.
Priol (2012 – MGP, 2017 P – IND)
Dipak Dhavlikar, the sitting MLA of MGP, is a strong candidate from this seat. But BJP is backing Independent candidate Govind Gaude, who has been active locally for many years and may edge out Dhavlikar.
Ponda (2012 – MGP, 2017 P – INC)
This seat will witness a fight between old warhorses Lavoo Mamledar of MGP and former chief minister Ravi Naik of INC. Mamledar had managed to squeeze out a win last time around with popular sentiment against Congress. However, with BJP and MGP parting ways and consequent vote split, Naik is expected to win against Mamledar.
Shiroda (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – INC)
This seat will witness an exciting three-cornered fight. While BJP sitting MLA Mahadev Naik benefited from the MGP support and anti-Congress wave in 2012, situation is different in 2017. MGP has fielded a strong candidate and Subhash Shirodkar of INC is also a three-time MLA from this constituency. He is likely to be a beneficiary of the vote split between BJP and MGP.
Marcaim (2012 – MGP, 2017 P – MGP)
This seat is the sanctum sanctorum of MGP and Sudin Dhavlikar should record his 5th consecutive win here easily.
Mormugao (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – INC)
The two-time BJP MLA Milind Naik faces substantial anti-incumbency. A chunk of party workers have switched over to INC citing Naik's inaccessibility. Naik had won a close battle last time. However, the going looks tough this time and it’s advantage Sankalp Amonkar of INC.
Vasco (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – BJP)
The sitting BJP MLA Carlos Almeida would have faced a tough contest here if INC and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) were contesting together. But since the alliance never happened, Almeida is likely to edge his rivals by a small margin.
Dabolim (2012 – INC, 2017 P – BJP)
Dabolim seat was another bone of contention between BJP and MGP. BJP’s importee from Congress Mauvin Godinho should record yet another win here albeit with a narrow margin.
Cortalim (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – AAP)
Cortalim will witness an interesting five-cornered battle. The sitting MLA Alina Saldanha of the BJP, widow of prominent social activist Mathany Saldanha, faces some anti-incumbency. Mathany's nephew Olencio contesting on AAP ticket has managed to get a lot of Mathany's erstwhile supporters with him. Alina is dependent on Dabolim MLA Mauvin Godinho's hold on the constituency to see her through but that might not be enough.
Nuvem (2012 – GVP, 2017 P – GSP)
INC denied ticket to its multi-time MLA Aleixo Sequeira from this seat and instead preferred state president Luizinho Faleiro's backed candidate Wilfred D’Sa. This has raised clouds over what otherwise looked like an INC win. Sitting MLA Mickey Pacheco of GSP could just about retain this seat in a close contest.
Curtorim (2012 – INC, 2017 P – INC)
The INC young face Alexio Reginaldo should complete a hat-trick of victories here easily.
Fatorda (2012 – IND, 2017 P – GF)
Vijai Sardesai won the 2012 election as IND riding on a sympathy wave after INC denied him a ticket. This time he is on a sticky wicket. The last-minute drama around Congress fielding its own candidate Joseph Silva after agreeing to back Vijai Sardesai has made the contest extremely interesting. This will go down to the wire and Sardesai might have just enough in the tank to do an encore on a GF ticket.
Benaulim (2012 – GVP, 2017 P – AAP)
Churchill Alemao of the NCP has returned to his favorite hunting ground Benaulim after leaving it for his daughter Valanka in 2007. However, AAP has established a good presence in this seat and the Arvind Kejriwal rally had a good response. Sitting MLA Caitu Silva is contesting as IND with BJP support. This will be a multi-cornered contest with INC also in the fray but AAP candidate Royla Fernandes may squeeze through.
Navelim (2012 – IND, 2017 P – IND)
Avertano Furtado who won as an IND last time is now contesting with BJP support. He has a good local connect and may just about manage to become the first candidate in Goan electoral history to win consecutively as an Independent.
Cuncolim (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – BJP)
BJP had an unlikely win in this seat last time as Rajan Naik defeated the Congress heavyweight Joaquim Alemao. There is some anti incumbency against Naik but he is benefiting from the split in opposition vote. AAP CM aspirant Elvis Gomes is a contender from this seat, but may not be able to win against Naik.
Velim (2012 – IND, 2017 P – INC)
This constituency will be a friendly fight between INC and GF. AAP’s Cruz Silva is also in contention here but Filipe Neri of INC looks likely to win a fourth term.
Quepem (2012 – INC, 2017 P – INC)
Even amidst the anti-Congress wave of 2012, Babu Kavlekar managed to win Quepem easily in 2012. He should make it four in a row in contesting against three-time MLA Prakash Velip of the BJP.
Curchorem (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – BJP)
Curchorem has been a BJP stronghold with Congress winning it just once in the last 20 years. Sitting MLA Nilesh Cabral should retain this seat.
Sanvordem (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – BJP)
There was talk of replacing sitting MLA Ganesh Gaonkar with the state BJP president and former MLA Vinay Tendulkar. However, BJP dodged a bullet and retained Gaonkar. While he faces a tough contest from MGP, he should manage to retain the seat.
Sanguem (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – BJP)
Sanguem has been a BJP fortress for the past 20 years. However, rebellion by two-time BJP MLA Vasudev Gaonlar, who is now contesting on a MGP ticket and entry of Babu Kavlekar's wife Savitri Kavlekar as Congress candidate should spice things up. BJP won this seat by 500-odd votes last time, and Subhash Faldessai should retain this seat in a similar close contest this time.
Canacona (2012 – BJP, 2017 P – BJP)
BJP has been dominant in this constituency for the last 15 years. BJP has denied ticket to its sitting MLA and Sports and Agriculture Minister Ramesh Tawadkar and opted for Vijay Pai Khot instead. Tawadkar has raised the banner of revolt and is fighting as an Independent. Pai Khot should regain this seat from where he had won in the past for BJP.
With each seat being its own election, Goa may well spring surprises. As of now, it appears that the final tally should read like this:
BJP may just about manage to form a government with this tally with the support of independent candidates and by attracting any of the regional players in lieu of ministerial berths. Congress on the other hand will need to get the support of almost all non-BJP parties and individuals to stitch up a government, which seems unlikely. Nonetheless, this is a BJP election to work hard and win as it is no longer on a firm footing like in 2012.
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