The religion factor in Goa and the north-south divide

Union Home Minister Amit Shah during a public meeting in Ponda, Goa.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah during a public meeting in Ponda, Goa. | Photo Credit: PTI

The multi-religious profile of Goa, where Hindus constitute two-thirds, Christians one-fourth and Muslims a little less than a tenth of the State’s population, makes religious identity an important explanatory variable for understanding Goan politics.  

Traditionally, north Goa, where Hindus constitute 76% of the population, has been a bastion of the BJP, while south Goa, where the Hindu numerical dominance is much lower and Christians form 36% of the population, has been more inclined towards the Congress. Muslims too are more in the south (10%) than in the north (7%). In both regions, they have been more supportive of the Congress traditionally, than the BJP.

In this Assembly election, while the old voting pattern along religious lines in the north and south Goa districts broadly remained the same, there were some significant shifts and splits that resulted in the BJP doing better in both regions, winning 13 and seven seats, respectively. 

Making a recovery 

According to Lokniti’s post-poll survey, in north Goa, after a relatively poor show among Hindus in 2017, the BJP managed to make a recovery, securing 42% of the majority community’s support, a gain of 4%.  

All of the BJP’s gains seem to have come from the Congress, which saw its support among north Goa’s Hindus dropping from 22% to 15%. 

Among Hindus of south Goa, on the other hand, the Congress didn’t do as badly. In fact, it gained fairly significantly. More than one-fourth (28%) of Hindus in south Goa voted for it compared with 20% the last time.  

The Congress’s gains among south Goa’s Hindus, however, didn’t amount to much as the BJP too gained slightly among them, increasing its already high share further, from 47% to 48%. 

As far as the Christian vote is concerned, both the Congress and the BJP fared much worse than the last time in both regions. The BJP which had managed to secure one-third (33%) of the Christian vote in north Goa five years ago came crashing down to just 22%. 

In south Goa, which has always been more averse to the BJP than north Goa, the BJP managed to secure only 7% of the Christian votes as opposed to 11% previously. But it is the Congress which should be seen as the bigger loser among Christians. The grand old party netted only one-third of their vote.  

New parties 

Many Christians were more attracted towards the brand new or relatively new options that were available to them this time in the form of the Trinamool Congress, the Revolutionary Goans Party (RGP) and the Aam Aadmi Party. 

The RGP, in fact, ate up a large chunk of the disgruntled Christian vote. In north Goa, more than two-fifths of Christians voted for the new parties along with Independents, and in south Goa their support for the non-Congress, non-BJP options was even higher at three-fifths. 

The Christian vote split seems to be the foremost reason for the Congress losing the election. 

One key reason why Christians moved away from the BJP appears to be the growing concern among the community regarding the BJP’s Hindutva agenda that had been kept at bay during Manohar Parrikar’s tenure.  

Lokniti’s post-poll survey found a far greater proportion of Christians to be in agreement with the proposition that the Goan society had become communally polarised in the past five years than it had been in 2017. Five years ago, 41% thought so, this time 56% did. There was an increased concern among Muslims as well regarding communalism (43%), but not to the same extent as Christians. Muslims were also less likely to have considered the issue of communalism and hate speech as an important voting issue than Christians, 39% as opposed to 47%. 

Muslim vote 

The Muslim vote in both regions mostly went to the Congress. While in south Goa, the Congress lost some Muslim votes, in north Goa, it gained among them. Notably, the Muslims of Goa were not as averse to voting for the BJP as those in some other parts of the country. The BJP appears to have done considerably better than the last time among Muslims of both south and north Goa as per our data. It could be argued that apart from the Christian vote split and greater consolidation of Hindu voters, Muslim voters may have been instrumental, at least to some extent, in shaping the BJP’s win in some seats. It is also quite remarkable that the BJP won Goa despite the all-important Christian vote moving away from it.

(Alaknanda Shringare is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Goa University, Panaji. Shreyas Sardesai is with Lokniti-CSDS) 

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Printable version | Mar 15, 2022 7:33:53 am | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/goa-assembly/the-religion-factor-in-goa-and-the-north-south-divide/article65224201.ece