By: Sushil Kutty
The Bharatiya Janata Party appears to be not too worried about anti-incumbency. It is upbeat, like one political analyst put it. But political analysts are dime a dozen, each with a viewpoint different from the other. That being said, if only the perception did not prevail that the Congress is losing ground nationally while the Trinamool is spreading its wings to the all-India level. Yes, “if only.”
But there is no “if only?” here; both the Congress and the Trinamool Congress are bent on acquiring Goa to snatch India. Rahul Gandhi’s late surge against Mamata Banerjee’s calculated move to grab national prominence at the expense of the Gandhis’ sense of entitlement has pitted one against the other though this gives breathing space to a beleaguered Narendra Modi and his BJP. The TMC with guidance from Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC wants Goa to be the launch pad for Didi’s leap of faith in herself and voters pan-India.
But it is not just Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool angling for national recognition; Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party are also keeping faith in Goa to leapfrog to national status. Both Mamata and Kejriwal are claimants to the PMO, which they feel will be kowtowing to a new incumbent come 2024 because Narendrabhai Modi no longer has the surprise element and will be forced to take a U-turn a la Ferozepur flyover.
That said, Goa is not Punjab or Uttar Pradesh. Goa, the BJP believes, will remain with the party. The optimism springs from the disunity in the Opposition camp though everyone agrees a broad coalition is the only way to see the back of the ruling BJP. Egos stand in the way. The Goa Forward Party wants the GFP, the Congress, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) to cast aside egos and join in a broad coalition.
The GFP is an ally of the Congress while Mamata’s Trinamool and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party are tied at the hip. And there’s not going to be the “broad coalition” the Goa Forward Party wants. The only thing that binds together all these parties is that none of them want anything to do with the Aam Aadmi Party, and AAP is okay with it. Kejriwal’s cut-outs and Mamata Banerjee’s face on hoardings are competing for space and eyeballs all over Goa.
But gone is the bonhomie between the simply dressed Mamata and the carelessly clothed Kejriwal. Mamata is by far a poacher par excellence. And Mamata has the advantage of coming into these elections with a massive electoral victory tied to her saree pallu! Arvind Kejriwal has nothing but sops and freebies to offer to the Goa voter. But the Goa voter does not look like an impoverished bloke hankering for AAP alms.
The fear in the Goa parties is not AAP running riot with free electricity and free water, these “local” parties are more worried of the BJP “playing dirty” citing Covid and the “third and fourth wave”. The EC ban on public rallies while permitting virtual rallies in the name of Covid has proven them right. The growing perception is the directive favours the BJP. Now, Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal will have to plunge into door to door campaigning.
It’s plain and simple Advantage BJP. The BJP’s IT Cell is notorious for its all-pervasiveness and the world’s largest party has more money to splurge than Arvind Kejriwal can give away in freebies. People have short memories. They have forgotten the horrors of the second Covid wave. There were a series of deaths in a Goa hospital for want of oxygen. But how many remember! Covid restrictions might still restrict a level-playing field. The BJP will get a “distinct advantage” from Covid restrictions.
The big fear is “they will stop us, they will not allow our meetings in the guise of restrictions, they will conduct their own meetings, and they will bring the Prime Minister to hold meetings”. But the EC rally ban bars all parties, even the BJP. And now the row over the PM’s security breach has put Modi at a disadvantage. He cannot hold public rallies, and he cannot plunge into door-to-door campaigning. Rival parties will promptly raise “PM’s security” to question his free movement.
The cry doing the rounds is “to liberate Goa from the present BJP virus.” But how? Is the big question. Also, nobody wants to give an inch to each other. Long after Modi is gone, Modi’s reign will be known for the disunity in the Opposition ranks. That said, there is this great chance and if the Opposition loses it, do not blame Rakesh Tikait.
All said, the TMC-MGP alliance has consolidated its position. The promises of Yuva Shakti Card and Griha Laxmi Scheme have struck a chord with the electorate. The alliance will cut into the vote shares of both the BJP, and the Congress. A lot rides on the two schemes. That said, candidate selection is the key. Talks for seats sharing is still on.
As for the BJP, there is infighting troubling it, involving the “loyalists” and the “migrants”. There is also a solid slab of anti-incumbency weighing down. Political leaders of other parties who shifted loyalty to BJP want to be paid in tickets. The BJP’s caught in a cleft stick.
Not that the Congress is all set. The TMC-MGP alliance and the Falerio of defections from the Congress to the Trinamool has damaged the GOP no end. The Congress wants to lose this disadvantage by fielding fresh faces. The commonality here is, both the Congress and the BJP want to field fresh faces. AAP will tend to rely on a mix of new and movers and shakers from other parties. It is the TMC, however, which is going all out. Mamata has been poaching Congress leaders like she can’t wait to add Trinamool to the Congress name fast enough.
In the last couple of months, nine MLAs of the 40-member Goa assembly have switched parties. This is apart from former MLAs. Goa has taken Haryana’s “Aaya ram, Gaya ram” to a new level. And every party is beneficiary and loser, with the Congress taking the cake for losing the most number.
The BJP faces a solid chunk of anti-incumbency. No jobs. Rising prices. Corruption. So, is the BJP going to win? In 2017, the party came from behind to steal the government! This time it’s tricky. The TMC can turn the tables on the BJP. AAP can add Goa to Delhi. The Congress could go with Goa Forward and move to the top of the field. Most important, there is no Manohar Parrikar around this time, the one man who could tell the BJP top rung to mind its own business! (IPA Service)