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Explained: Goa assembly polls – key players in fray, race for tickets

Goa Assembly elections: Hectic political activity is underway in the state amid substantial poaching, negotiations of possible alliances and lobbying for tickets.

Goa Trinamool Congress leaders release a chargesheet against the alleged misrule of past governments in Goa, at Azad Maidan in Panaji, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (PTI Photo)

Goa – where the BJP, Congress and regional parties have been the major players for decades – will see the AAP and the TMC fighting it out for a pie in the 40-member state assembly which goes to polls early next year. Hectic political activity is underway in the state amid substantial poaching, negotiations of possible alliances and lobbying for tickets.

How many assembly constituencies does Goa have?

There are 40 legislative assembly constituencies in the two revenue districts divided into North and South Goa. At present, the BJP has 27 MLAs and support from an independent MLA, the Congress has four after Luizinho Faleiro resigned in September and joined the TMC, GFP has three, MGP and NCP have one each and there are two independents.

Which are the major political parties in the fray?

BJP: The ruling BJP with 28 MLAs (including an independent supporting the party) in the 40-member assembly, went into election mode in July with both Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and state BJP President Sadanand Tanavade visiting several constituencies. The party that has been in power in the state for a decade may also have to factor in anti-incumbency.

Congress: The Congress that lost 10 MLAs to the BJP after the 2019 defections and squandered the opportunity to form the government in 2017 despite having the most number of MLAs, is looking for a redemption. It is now down to four MLAs in the state.

AAP: The Aam Aadmi Party, which is looking to expand its national presence, first contested assembly election in Goa in 2017 but drew a blank. Subsequently, it won a Zilla Panchayat seat in South Goa and is now set to contest the 2022 assembly poll. This time, however, the party has more visibility than it did in 2017.

All India Trinamool Congress: The TMC entered Goa’s poll arena as recently as September. After its success in the West Bengal assembly polls in May, the party has entered the Goan political landscape, with its eye on the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Electoral gain in Goa may be an important stepping stone ahead of Lok Sabha polls to possibly project Mamata Banerjee as the lead face of the opposition in the country. The party’s previous outings in Goa have been uneventful.

Who are the main regional players and other parties in the state?

Goa Forward Party: The regional player led by Vijai Sardesai, a former Congressman, has three MLAs at present. It is looking to defeat the BJP after party MLAs were unceremoniously removed from the alliance government formed in 2017 under then Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, after the defections of 2019. Planning to contest about 12 seats, the party is weighing its options for an alliance.

Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party: MGP, the party of Dayanand (Bhausaheb) Bandodkar – considered among the founding fathers of Goa, has traditionally aligned with the BJP and has had a predominantly Hindu vote bank. Ramkrishna alias Sudin Dhavalikar is its only MLA after two defected to the BJP in 2019. One of its two defectors is deputy chief minister Manohar Ajgaonkar.

NCP: The Nationalist Congress Party’s only MLA in the state is Churchill Alemao. A long-time Congress ally in neighbouring Maharashtra, the party has been waiting for the Congress’s response for a pre-poll alliance.

Sena: Banking mostly on its geographical proximity and cultural similarities between Maharashtra and Goa, the Shiv Sena has announced it will contest upto 25 seats this election. It had earlier contested the election jointly with Goa Suraksha Manch led by former Goa RSS chief Subhash Velingkar. The party has so far not won any seat.

Independents and local parties: Independent MLAs in the state include Goa’s art and culture minister Govid Gaude. Two other independents include Rohan Khaunte, former revenue minister, and Prasad Gaonkar, who recently pledged support to the TMC. In addition, civil society groups-turned-political parties like Goencho Avaaz will add an additional dimension to this poll season.

Heated race for election ticket

The contest for the Goan capital is likely to be most interesting. The seat is currently held by Atanasio alias Babush Monserrate, who had won the constituency on a Congress ticket in 2017 after it fell vacant due to the death of former chief minister Manohar Parrikar. The loss of Parrikar’s seat was an embarrassment for the BJP. The seat, however, returned to the party when Monserrate and nine other Congress MLAs defected to the saffron party in 2019. In the upcoming election, however, the BJP may be faced with a difficult situation. Aspirants for the seat include Parrikar’s son Utpal Parrikar, seen by many in the party as the natural successor of his highly-regarded father. He has not shied away from making his desire to contest the seat known to the party leadership. At the same time, Monserrate, who was instrumental in bringing over 10 Congress MLAs to the BJP-fold following the 2019 defections, may also want to retain his claim over the hard-earned victory in Panaji. Monserrate’s son is the mayor of the Corporation of the City of Panaji and his wife Jennifer Monserrate is revenue minister and MLA from the neighbouring Taleigaon constituency.

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