Updated: September 30, 2021 7:26:37 am
Luizinho Faleiro, who served two terms of a few months each as the Congress chief minister of Goa in 1998-99, joined the Trinamool Congress along with nine other leaders in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Elections to the 40-member Goa Assembly will be held in February-March 2022. There has been increasing political activity over the past couple of months, involving not just the ruling BJP, opposition Congress, and regional players like Goa Forward Party (GFP) and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), but also the AAP and TMC, and civil society groups.
The Congress was the single largest party with 17 seats after the 2017 elections, but was upstaged by the BJP, which struck deals with the GFP, MGP, and Independents to form the government. Two Congress MLAs subsequently joined the BJP and, in 2019, 10 others crossed over, reducing the party to five MLAs.
Over the past few months, however, new faces have joined the party, including bureaucrat-turned-politician and former AAP Goa convener Elvis Gomes, former India and East Bengal footballer Alvito D’Cunha, who had supported the TMC’s election campaign this summer, and former minister in the government of the late Manohar Parrikar, Avertano Furtado.
The BJP’s estranged ally GFP (3 MLAs) has repeatedly called for a “united opposition” against the BJP. Both GFP and NCP (1) are waiting for the Congress’s answer on a pre-poll pact.
AAP had drawn a blank in 2017. Arvind Kejriwal has promised free electricity up to 300 units per month, 80% quota for locals in private sector jobs, and an employment allowance for the tourism and mining sectors. Kejriwal and MGP MLA Ramkrishna Dhavalikar have held some discussions as well.
The MLA from Navelim in South Goa resigned his seat on Monday, saying he would “lead a movement” that would bring a “new dawn” in Goa. The Congress which is now down to four MLAs, described the exit of Faleiro as a “blessing in disguise”. But it expressed ignorance about the “real reason or intentions” of the TMC in “coming to Goa”.
Faleiro — a 40-year veteran of the Congress and seven-time MLA who is still influential in South Goa with a sizable following among South Goa Christians — has not yet said whether he would lead the TMC’s charge in Goa or contest the Assembly elections. It had been clear for some time that he was unhappy in the Goa Congress, and there has been speculation that he is looking to enter Rajya Sabha on a TMC ticket — and that the TMC is in turn hoping to use his experience as AICC general secretary in charge of the Northeast for its own campaign in Tripura.
The TMC, which had unsuccessfully contested a single seat in 2012, has announced it is “very serious” this time. Political strategist Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC, which has been working with the TMC, has been sniffing the ground in Goa for about three months, and the party is understood to be in talks with some leaders from the BJP and civil society as well.
TMC’s national plans
From Kolkata, Faleiro’s joining the TMC looks a part of the party’s grand plan to project Mamata Banerjee as a national leader and the most credible face against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Under national general secretary and Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, the TMC has over the past few months, worked to strengthen its organisation in Tripura, and to find a foothold in Assam and Uttar Pradesh. It has taken Sushmita Dev from the Congress, two-term MP and former union minister Babul Supriyo from the BJP, and now, Faleiro.
Both Mamata and Abhishek have criticised the Congress for not being able to fight the BJP. The TMC mouthpiece, Jago Bangla, has attacked the Congress on several occasions, and announced that it is only Banerjee who has the credibility and charisma to lead an opposition coalition against the BJP.
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