Post Parrikar Parliamentary Elections

Nandkumar M Kamat

Since 1991 when he was persuaded to contest the north Goa (Panaji) Lok Sabha elections, ex Chief Minister late Manohar Parrikar did not miss a single election campaign. He was always the undisputed star campaigner for Goa BJP. He was ably supported by his deputy Digambar Kamat till 2005.

Except late Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pramod Mahajan other national leaders didn’t make much difference in campaign locally. But it all changed when Parrikar persuaded Narendra Modi to hold a rally in Goa before 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Parrikar was the mastermind in supporting the name of Narendra Modi as BJP national poll panel chief during the party’s national executive meeting on Sunday June 9, 2013 in Panaji.

In his speech Modi remembered the special place Goa has in his life. He said, “Goa has a very special place for me. Newspapers are writing Goa is lucky for Modi but it is not about Modi’s luck.

This is the same Goa that allowed me to continue to serve in Gujarat in 2002. When I got blessings of Goa, I was able to scale new heights. So, I am sure these blessings will allow me to work even better.”

On January 12, 2014 Goa BJP could gather an unprecedented one lakh people for the ‘Vijay Sankalp’ rally. BJP got record response for the meeting only because of personal efforts of Manohar Parrikar who toured the state to bring people. Two factors came together to give substantial leads to both the BJP candidates during the May 2014 Lok Sabha election. First was performance of Manohar Parrikar as Chief Minister ruling with comfortable majority and second was the charismatic appeal of Narendra Modi as Prime Ministerial aspirant.

Parrikar gave two good budgets in 2013 -14 and 2014-15 which appealed the voters. He had managed to come out with a financial support package for people affected by closure of mining. Prime Minister Modi would be here on April 10 for another rally, his second visit to Goa during two months and he would surely recall his Goa connection and long association with Manohar Parrikar. His speech is likely to be aimed at making people sentimental about Manohar Parrikar because this is the first parliamentary election after 1991 that Goa BJP would be facing without him.

People expect Narendra Modi to talk more on long pending ‘special status’ to Goa and central intervention to commence the stalled mining operations. The aggrieved Dhangar Gouly agro pastoral community would like to hear from the Prime Minister about their inclusion in central ST list an issue which is pending since 1963. But Narendra Modi may focus more on tapping the sympathy factor instead of special developmental packages to Goa. The minorities in Goa would like to know from him whether they would be targeted because of their food habits, customs and religious beliefs.

Minority MLAs in BJP now feel orphaned as their two important leaders Parrikar and Francis De Souza left this world thus creating a degree of uncertainty. Their presence and association in the party is likely to be used symbolically to present the ‘secular, acceptable, Christian, minority’ face of BJP. The acting Speaker Calangute MLA Michael Lobo was close to Manohar Parrikar but feels left out from the cabinet despite his experience and merit. He had to abide by the party strategy and watch the first time MLA, his junior in politics, the Sanvordem MLA being catapulted overnight to the heavyweight PWD portfolio.

Alina Saldanha despite being the only woman MLA was also left out of the cabinet and could get a very lightweight corporation. The absence of Manohar Parrikar has changed the full political matrix.

The minority MLAs would campaign for victory of both BJP candidates only because they were initiated in politics by Manohar Parrikar. But their genuine simmering discontent may snowball after May 23 irrespective of the results.

This would be toughest election to be faced by Shripad Naik who misses Manohar Parrikar in key north Goa assembly segments. A large section of voters, mostly BJP supporters expect Shripad Naik to forget New Delhi and play more active role in local politics as future Chief Minister aspirant. BJP’s electoral success doesn’t depend much on manifestoes or campaign speeches but the groundwork that is done by its 1400 active booth level committees. Such organisational structure is absent among the opposition parties.

MGP’s decision to support both the candidates of Congress in this election would make a critical difference in more than 200 booths. Absence of Parrikar has also given a free hand to MGP to decide its future and after a long gap Goa would see MGP actively supporting and campaigning for the victory of both the candidates of Congress party namely Girish Chodankar and Francisco Sardinha. This is unprecedented in recent political history.

Traditional Congress voters had voted in 2017 for Goa Forward Party candidates and these votes are unlikely to be shifted to BJP especially in north Goa. Indirectly the catholic church of Goa has spoken its mind without naming any political party and BJP’s Narendra Sawaikar would face a tough battle in minority dominated assembly segments despite his reasonably satisfactory performance as first time and young MP.

Parrikar loved statistics and always used to monitor the polling percentage. As compared to assembly

elections, voters in Goa take much less interest in parliamentary elections and this time absence of Manohar Parrikar in campaign may also deter a large number of voters  despite attempts by Goa election office to ensure record voting.

If Prakash Velip, Prasad Gaonkar, Ramesh Tawadkar, Vijay Pai Khot, Ganesh Gaonkar, Subhash Phaldessai sincerely campaign for Narendra Sawaikar then only he can offset the leads of Congress candidate Sardinha in traditional Congress strongholds. A veteran politician like Sardinha may heavily depend on MGP support this time to neutralize leads by Sawaikar in Madkaim, Shiroda, Sanvordem, Canacona, Ponda, and if the Congress-MGP joint strategy becomes successful then it would be a neck to neck race on May 23.

Parrikar maintained cordial relations with neo Goan migrant community which accounts for about three lakh votes. BJP doesn’t have anyone with similar connect to them. The April 10 rally by Prime Minister Modi would be watched very carefully as it’s a barometer of people’s mind. If the record of January 12, 2014 is repeated, then BJP would be the happiest party. Post Parrikar election scenario would be very clear after April 10.