Former Defence minister and Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, on Monday, won the bypoll to Panaji with 9862 votes. The one that does not hear much drums or loudspeakers or sees plasters of print with smiling faces and political promises.
Having only managed 13 of the 40 constituencies, Goa had declared it an anti-BJP sentiment in March 2017. In the days leading to the bypoll, Parrikar had all his allies sitting behind mikes –supporting him, speaking of him as the glue that holds the government, its politics and policies together.
A little earlier, the Aam Admi Party informed the electorate they will not be putting a candidate against Parrikar as they supported a “head on fight”, and in their own words didn’t want to confuse the “electorate”. The Congress – which had secured its support from the Church and a good victory in the March 2017 vote share — went looking for a candidate. The Independents backed out first – one by one. Then their last hope – the man who bends Panjim, former MLA Atanasio (Babush) Monserrate did a pied piper crawl to Vijai Sardesai of the Goa Forward Party, an ally in the ruling government.
The CM’s only rival – a candidate Congress finally put — was Girish Chodankar, a former teacher, a Rahul Gandhi loyalist, an outsider to Panjim. It was a David and Goliath story again, on the banks of river Mandovi.
Monday’s figures of his victory, then, was just a “foregone conclusion” in the words of Prabhakar Timble, former Goa State Election Commissioner. But the story is in the margin.
Chodankar secured 5,059 votes. Parrikar 9862. BJP was quick calling it a “confortable victory” as they shared their favourtite election math: Vote share. “We have 64 per cent, Congress is 32. Comfortable no?,” says Sadanand Tanawade, BJP Goa General Secretary.
But if election math is to be seen – Congress has never secured over 5000 votes against Parrikar – and certainly not this margin in any of its previous five elections.
In 2012, with the backing of Babush, Congress had only managed 3185 for their candidate Yatin Parekh. Parrikar had a chartburster figure 7768. Political experts say – this figure also smells of a “Modi wave”.
In 1999 Parrikar won with 5912 votes against Congress’s Prabhu Keshav’s 2815 in a seven cornered fight. In 2002, Parrikar touched 5700 against Congress’s 4408.
The numbers only show – that Congress has a voter base. Experts say – this also shows that what they lack is “organisational skills”. The story of Goa – being their polling story across.
“Parrikar sat and contested this time from the CM’s chair. He roped in his airforce, navy and right to the infantry. That would mean Babush, his opposition he converted as allies, and even the independents who were showing allegiance to Congress. Still he has won with a reduced margin, giving someone like Chodankar a figure of 5000 plus. This shows his popularity graph has slumped,” added Timble. “This is not a BJP’s victory. Earlier election where Siddharth Kuncalienkar won, he scraped through. It was an election where they voted against BJP. This time this bypoll should pinch. Even with Babush with them the reduced margins only show it was an anti-Parrikar vote.”
Dr Oscar Rebello of the Aam Aadmi Party says the figures also speak another story. “This poll too he has spoken the same promise on casinos which he has been making for a decade. The level of anger, resentment, the keyboard punching criticism against Parrikar though doesn’t seem to translate on ground. These numbers, whichever angle one looks from, is a story of these dispensations, of favours, jobs and other out of turn promises made by the ruling party in a small state like Goa. But that he won with so less a margin still should make for some analysis. In the end it’s clutching straws.”
Tanawade though is unperturbed. Taking congratulatory calls the whole day – on behalf of Parrikar he said, “you must also see Ganesh Chaturthi is here. People are busy with celebrations at home. We had anticipated a margin of 5000. We are actually only short of 200 then.”