With his government’s popularity clearly on the slide, Manohar Parrikar, barely two years into his stint as Goa Chief Minister, is banking on the inevitable multicornered contests and a divided Congress to see his party, the BJP, through the parliamentary polls.
Indications are that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s MP Sripad Naik may struggle to retain his North Goa seat for a fourth consecutive term, while Mr. Parrikar hopes to repeat his impressive performance in the previous Assembly elections in South Goa during which he successfully wooed minorities to unsettle the Congress’s hold.
The image of the Parrikar government is that of a one-man show. While many Ministers court controversies, it is seen struggling to retain support with social security sops.
The 18-month ban on mining and the role of the State government and the BJP and the Congress in imposing it are bound to be serious issues in the April 12 elections, as a large number of mining dependents struggle for alternative sources of livelihood.
Mr. Parrikar faces the tag of inaction on varied pre-Assembly election promises. Civil society groups, his erstwhile allies in the fight against “corrupt Congress-misrule,” today question his frequent “U-turns.”
“Mr. Parrikar has betrayed the mandate of the people. He failed to keep his word on issues like the Goa regional plan. People are fed up with his promises as delivery is poor,” says Yatish Naik of the Goa Parivartan Manch, a civil society group, reflecting public ire.
Frustration among the people is palpable, as contentious issues such as floating casinos, investigation into the illegal mining scam and State land use plan continue to be swept under the carpet.
Regional political outfits and church-backed and other groups continue to push for retaining issues such as Goa’s identity and scarce land by raising the issues of ‘dual airport’ and ‘special constitutional status’ to corner the BJP and the Congress on their ambivalent stands. So is the “Portuguese citizenship” issue that affects Catholics in particular.
The tottering Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance apart, the Congress is facing a deadlock over the choice of candidate in its traditional stronghold of South Goa. Still unnerved by the Assembly debacle, the Congress is unable to exploit Mr. Parrikar’s flip-flops as Congress MLAs are either tacitly aligned with him or are shy of taking on him.
The BJP began way ahead of all others, announcing its candidates and launching its campaign with a remarkable “NaMo” rally in February. Mr. Parrikar is shrewd to realise that Mr. Modi’s name may help him reap dividends in the Hindu-dominated North Goa but it could be counterproductive among his new-found Catholic allies in south Goa.
“The issue at stake is not good governance in Goa, and, therefore, the thinking people among the minority, who had gone with the BJP in the previous Assembly election, even though they might have gained from a few of his policies, would not join the right-wing euphoria to promote a ‘polarising Modi,’” says Mr. Prabhakar Timblo, political analyst, pointing to a lack of euphoria about the BJP in the Catholic-dominated State ahead.
As the battle lines are drawn, the North Goa turf no more remains safe for Sripad Naik, Other Backward Classes leader from Goa’s predominant Bhandari community, as the former Chief Minister Ravi Naik, another formidable Bhandari leader, has emerged as a front runner for Congress ticket. Mr. Timblo argues that the Congress has matched the BJP’s “caste politics” in North Goa perfectly. The internecine “cold equation” between the BJP’s Sripad Naik and the Chief Minister may further jolt the former.
Contrary to public expectations, the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party failed to spring any surprise with its candidates.