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Rival bashing, history raking & trying to fit ‘Goan’ mould: How parties wooed Goa electorate

2022 Goa poll has been characterised by multiple parties vying for supremacy. As campaigning for the election ended Saturday, each party tried to leave voters with a distinctive message.

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Mumbai: Under normal circumstances, when people drive out of the Goa airport at Dabolim, and head northwards towards Panaji, they are greeted by big glitzy hoardings of casinos, new clubs that have come up and restaurants promising a good party.

For the last two or three months, however, the hoardings and the parties had been of a different kind with multiple advertisements of ‘Goenchi Navi Sakal’ (Goa’s new dawn) by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and ‘Goa wants change, Goa wants Kejriwal,’ by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and a few by the Congress and the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well. At a couple of stretches along the road, one could even find the hoardings of all four parties clustered together, staring down at every passer-by.

The 2022 assembly election in Goa, India’s smallest state — it has only 11.56 lakh voters, about 12 per cent the number of total Mumbai voters — has been characterised by multiple parties vying for supremacy in the 40-member assembly. As campaigning for the 14 February election ended Saturday, each party tried to leave voters with a distinctive message.

While the TMC emphasised on how it has built the party in Goa and is here to stay, in an attempt to shed its “outsider” tag, the AAP reached out to Congress’ traditional votebanks, telling them that to vote for the Congress is like giving away a vote to the BJP (a reference to the many Goa Congress MLAs who defected to the BJP). The Congress, meanwhile, appealed Goans to not split their votes, and the BJP — having identified the Congress as its primary rival in the state, perhaps — raked up history to blame the party for the state’s “delayed” independence from the Portuguese, an allegation that the Congress steadfastly denied.

Also read: ‘Will always be Congress worker’: Ex-CM Rane pulls out of Goa polls amid feud with son

‘Vote for Congress is vote for BJP’

Addressing a press conference in Goa Friday, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal said all those who want to vote the BJP out of power should vote for AAP because voting for the Congress is like giving away a vote to the BJP.

“Last time, you gave the Congress 17 MLAs of which 15 left. So, there is no point in giving a vote to the Congress. Don’t waste your vote by giving it to the Congress,” Kejriwal said, referring to the many Congress MLAs who had defected to the BJP after the 2017 elections, bolstering the latter’s hold over the Goa government. The BJP had managed to stitch together an alliance and formed government at the time, despite the Congress emerging as the single-largest party with 17 seats.

“Those who want to defeat the BJP, those who are troubled by their governance, by their ideology, those who don’t want BJP, they should all vote for the AAP,” he added.

The TMC’s Abhishek Banerjee too made a claim similar to Kejriwal’s while addressing a rally in Goa Thursday.

“Your one vote is worth Rs 20,000. These people sell your votes to the BJP for Rs 20,000 each. Your trust is sold for Rs 20,000. Your love is sold by the Congress people and others to BJP for Rs 20,000,” Banerjee said. “Don’t vote for those who demean your dignity. Don’t vote for those who betray you,” he added.

The TMC, which had faced criticism for not having worked in Goa in the past and arriving just before the election, had also released a social media advertisement, saying “We are here to stay and be your voice.”

In another advertisement, the TMC stressed on how TMC Goa came together as a “people’s movement” to fight the incumbent “double engine disaster government” of the BJP. In the run-up to polls, the TMC had often faced charges of fanning Goa’s defection culture from rival parties.

‘We will not allow you to divide Goans’

Meanwhile, standing in the backdrop of an old banyan tree, a woman in a blue saree said, “Have you heard? They are trying to play with Goan sentiments. Outside parties want to use us as puppets…Our Goa is small, but Goans are great. The TMC and AAP are not our parties. Trying to divide Goans? We will not allow it. We will not allow you to split our votes and elect the BJP to power. I will only vote for the ‘hand’ and elect a Congress government.”

The above was among the Congress’ many social media video advertisements released by the party in the final week of campaigning, in a direct response to attacks from the TMC and AAP.

Speaking at a press conference in Goa Friday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi exuded confidence that the party will form government in Goa on its own strength “with ease”.

The party had to also answer criticism leveled by the BJP, which too chose to train its gun at the Congress.

Speaking at a rally in Goa’s Mapusa Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reiterated his claim that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru delayed Goa’s liberation from Portuguese rule, till 15 years after India’s independence.

“The country’s first Prime Minister Pandit Nehru declared from the Red Fort…you can hear his speech on YouTube today… that to help those struggling for the liberation of Goa, he will not send the army,” he said.

“This is how Congress thought before and thinks even today,” he added.

On his part, Rahul Gandhi slammed Modi for not understanding the history of that period. Speaking to the press in Goa, he said, “The PM cannot come to you and say I gave you jobs, I gave you employment, I stole your last government. So, he has to distract you. Freedom fighters and academics have commended this issue. The sad fact is that the PM does not understand the history of those times, and what was going on post World War II”.

Meanwhile, regional parties such as the Goa Forward Party, had based their campaign on highlighting their commitment to Goa’s distinct identity.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: In Goa politics, personalities matter more than party. These polls are more proof


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