Congress suffers worst-ever defeat in the State, wins only 9 out of 33 contested

The Congress suffered its worst-ever defeat in the Goa Assembly elections. The BJP, riding the anti-incumbency wave against the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party's “corruption, misgovernance,” won a clear majority with 21 seats in the 40-member House on Tuesday. The BJP's ally, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), won 3 seats. Two Independents supported by the BJP also won.

So severe was the mauling for the ruling coalition that as many as eight of the 11 Ministers, including both NCP Ministers, were defeated. While the Congress won just 9 out of 33 seats it contested, the NCP failed to get even one of the seven it contested. Five independents, two of them Congress rebels, and two MLAs of the Goa Vikas Party (GVP), a regional outfit, also won capitalising on the anti-Congress mood.

The five independents who won are Vijay Sardesai in Fatorda, Naresh Sawal (Bicholim), both Congressmen denied tickets; Benjamin Silva (Velim) and Avertano Furtado (Navelim), both supported by the BJP, and Rohan Khavtye from Porvorim.

So decisive was the mandate for the BJP-MGP combine, following a very high turnout of nearly 83 per cent, that except for Micky Pacheco, former Tourism Minister (Nuvem), and Caetano R. Silva (Benaulim), who won on the GVP ticket, no other regional outfit or new entrants like the Trinamool Congress or independents fielded by village groups could make any adverse impact.

The BJP — which hitherto got only Hindu votes, while the nearly 27 per cent Catholic population looked at it with suspicion and traditionally rallied behind the Congress-NCP alliance — for the first time found a massive mandate from across the communities.

The BJP's strategy of combining with the regional outfit of Hindu mass-based MGP on the one hand and wooing the Catholic voters by allotting as many as six tickets to Catholic candidates on the other, paid rich dividends with all six Catholic candidates of the BJP and two Independents in Catholic-dominated south Goa's constituencies having turned “ giant killers.”

Glen Ticklo defeated the former Deputy Chief Minister and long-time Congress MLA from Aldona, Dayanand Narvekar; Michael Lobo defeated sitting MLA Agnelo Fernandes of the Congress in Calangute; Carlos Almeida defeated NCP Minister Jose Philip D'Souza in Vasco; Nilesh Cabral defeated the Congress' sitting MLA from Curchorem, Shyam Satardekar; Matanhy Saldanha defeated the Congress in Cortalim, while three-time BJP MLA Francisco D'Souza retained the Mapusa seat by defeating the NCP candidate.

Two Independents backed by the BJP, Avertano Furtado and Benjamin D'Silva, defeated heavy-weight Ministers from South Goa, Churchill Alemao in Navelim and Forest Minister Filipe Neri Rodrigues from Velim. For Mr. Rodrigues, the controversy over a raid by an election flying squad on a local Church priest and the subsequent mob violence against the police, which led to cases being filed against the priest and some members of local Church committee during the election process, turned costly, though he had no direct involvement in these developments.

The fury of the traditional Congress voters against the party could be gauged from the fact that of the 19 of its 20 sitting MLAs, only nine could return; four of them Catholics and five Hindus. The only woman candidate, Jennifer Monserrate (Taleirgao), wife of Education Minister Atanasio Monserrate, was the lone candidate to win, out of the 10 new faces of the Congress.

People's victory: Parrikar

Hailing the results, BJP's chief ministerial aspirant and architect of the BJP-MGP alliance victory, Manohar Parrikar, who, won from his Panaji constituency with a bigger margin, told presspersons: “It is the victory of the people of Goa followed by victory of workers of the BJP.”

With his strategy of putting the Hindutva issue under the carpet and a positive campaign to woo the minorities with the promise of “good governance and inclusive development of Goa” having paid off, Mr. Parrikar said, “Minority communities have reposed faith in us. Nobody need to be worried. We will take everybody along.”

Alemaos taste defeat

The ruling Congress also suffered for its decision to allot a big chunk of seats to the kin of a handful of families of Ministers. All the four of the Alemao family led by Minister for Public Works Department Churchill Alemao, brother and Minister for Urban Development Joaquim Alemao, Churchill's daughter Valanka Alemao (all Congress) and Joaquim's son Yuri Alemao (NCP) were defeated. Home Minister Ravi Naik was defeated from his Ponda constituency, while his son Ritesh Naik lost in Madkai.

Other Ministers who lost included Power Minister Aleixo Sequeira, Sports Minister Manohar Azgaonkar (both Congress) and Tourism Minister Nilkant Halarnakar (NCP). Congress stalwarts including Goa Pradesh Congress Committee chief Subhas Shirodkar (Shiroda) also lost.

Only three Ministers won — Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, Minister for Education Atanasio Monserrate and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane. Speaker Pratapsingh Rane won for the 10th consecutive term from his home turf at Poriem and Deputy Speaker Mauvin Godinho (Dabolim) also won.

Other Congress MLAs who won were Pandurang Madkaikar (Cumbharjua), Babu Kalvekar (Quepem) and Reginaldo Lawrenco (Curtorim).

Congress leaders led by Home Minister Ravi Naik and Mr. Vishwajit Rane declined to accept that the “family Raj” campaign had done the party in. But others like Mr. Manohar Azgaonkar said there was a “wave of the BJP” generated by that party by exploiting the people's annoyance over the huge chunk of tickets given by the Congress to a handful of families.

The blame game

Mr. Vishwajit Rane, who is blamed for ‘misleading' the high command over ticket allocation to many in north Goa, including defectors lured by him from the BJP, and thereby denying tickets to loyal party men, said: “This is the time for introspection and to taking collective responsibility and certainly not for playing the blame game. The party will have to accept the people's mandate and continue to work for the people to win back their trust by analysing the mistakes.”

“Bad for Goa”

Admitting that the switch-over of the Catholic vote to the BJP-MGP alliance was a “big worry and bad for Goa,” Mr. Ravi Naik said, “They [minorities] would soon realise to whom they have voted.”

Ramkrishna Dhavlikar of the MGP, who was among the three winners from the party along with his sibling, Deepak Dhavilkar, and Lavoo Mamledar, a former Sub-Inspector, expressed happiness that the MGP had succeeded in retaining its recognition with the Election Commission by going in alliance with the BJP. He declined to accept that he had acted as an opportunist by being a Minister in the Congress government all along and then accusing it of corruption when he opted to resign ahead of election to join hands with the BJP.

The BJP-MGP workers and leaders celebrated victory all over the State.

Kamat quits

The Chief Minister submitted his resignation to Governor K. Sankaranarayanan on Tuesday evening. The Governor asked Mr. Kamat to continue as caretaker until the new dispensation is sworn in.