Mumbai: The Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will, for the first time, take their partnership beyond Maharashtra. The parties are set to fight the Goa assembly election together, contesting 10 seats each in the 40-member house.
Both parties were also trying to get the Congress on board, to take their Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) experiment to Goa, but that party has chosen not to join the alliance in Goa, leaders from the Shiv Sena and NCP said.
The MVA, comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, was formed in November 2019 after the Maharashtra assembly polls to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from forming a government in the state.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut was in Goa Wednesday and held a meeting with senior NCP leader Praful Patel to hammer out a seat-sharing formula for the two parties. The Shiv Sena leader confirmed to ThePrint that both the parties will contest 10 seats each.
Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Patel said, “The larger thought process was that on the lines of the MVA, we can have an alliance here in Goa. We thought the Congress is the biggest of the three parties here and it should be at the forefront, we will support it and contest on a few seats.”
The Congress, however, did not show any interest, and thinks that it can come to power in the state on its own, Patel added.
Speaking to ThePrint, Dinesh Gundu Rao, the Congress general secretary in-charge of Goa, said the Congress has “nothing against them at all”.
“We are not stopping them from doing anything. There’s no enmity or anger. We discussed openly and it couldn’t be fructified,” Rao said.
“We started discussions with the NCP but there was no consensus on constituencies that they’ll fight and the ones we’ll fight. The seats that they wanted were seats where we were also very strong. Shiv Sena came very late actually. They spoke to us about two weeks back and so much had already happened by then,” he explained.
“We’d decided upon so many candidates. We still spoke to them and gave them some options. But those options were not suitable to them. They wanted something, we wanted something else. Going ahead with that would’ve affected our entire organisation,” Rao added.
Raut who, like Patel, addressed a press conference Wednesday and said the politics of Goa is “dirty”.
“If the politics of ‘Aaya Ram Gaya Ram’ (defections) is applicable anywhere then it is in Goa. People of Goa are tired of these parties. Goa’s people are searching for an alternative and looking at how the Maharashtra government is performing, in Goa too, people here can give us a chance,” Raut said.
Over the two years of the MVA in Maharashtra, the leaderships of the Shiv Sena and NCP have gotten visibly closer, while Congress leaders have often complained about feeling like the third wheel.
Sources in the Shiv Sena and NCP said the Congress did not want to ally with the two parties in Goa due to differences over seat-sharing.
According to the sources, both the Shiv Sena and NCP have negligible presence in Goa, and the Congress was not keen on parting with more than a couple of constituencies for the NCP, saying it has a better chance of winning more seats on its own.
The NCP was, however, bargaining for at least eight seats, they said, pointing at how the Congress, which had emerged as the single-largest party in Goa with 17 seats in 2017, is now left with just two MLAs, with the others having defected to different parties.
Last week, NCP president Sharad Pawar had said the party was also trying to rope in the Trinamool Congress for an opposition alliance in Goa.
On Wednesday, Patel said it was “just a thought process and there were no official talks”.
Bit players in Goa
While the Shiv Sena and NCP’s tie-up is politically significant as it is the first concrete sign of unity between the two parties outside of Maharashtra and the MVA, it is unlikely to make a large dent in Goa, as both parties have been bit players in the state.
Sources in the Congress too pointed this out, saying the two parties had “done nothing in Goa in the past five years. They have no organisation or vote share”.
In 2017, the Shiv Sena contested three seats in Goa and put an organised effort in its campaign with party president Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya, now the CM of Maharashtra and a cabinet minister respectively, addressing rallies. It had even forged an alliance with the Goa Suraksha Manch, an outfit floated by ousted RSS Goa chief Subhash Velingkar, to take on the BJP. The party also tied up with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), a former ally of the BJP that had then fallen out with the ruling party in the state.
However, the Shiv Sena’s efforts made a negligible dent. Besides losing all the three seats, the Shiv Sena managed a trifling average vote share of 1.3 per cent in the seats it contested. In 2012 too, the Shiv Sena had lost all the three seats that it had contested.
The NCP’s performance in Goa has also been lacklustre. In 2017, the party contested 17 seats and triumphed in just one, with its MLA Churchill Alemao from Benaulim later extending support to the BJP to form a government with the help of two of Goa’s regional parties — MGP and Goa Forward Party. The NCP had sent a show cause notice to Alemao for supporting the BJP-led alliance.
Other than Alemao’s victory, the NCP lost its deposit in the 16 other seats and managed an average vote share of 5.47 per cent in the seats that it contested.
In December 2021, Alemao left the NCP and joined the Trinamool Congress.
In 2012, the NCP had contested seven seats and won none, but managed a 24.5 per cent vote share in the seats that it contested, emerging as the runner-up in four constituencies.
“The Shiv Sena has contested elections in Goa as (part of) an alliance, but the share of seats that came to us were those where we didn’t have much presence. This time, we are contesting more than 10 seats with the NCP. Organisational bases of both parties are with us. We will succeed,” Raut said.
With inputs from Ishadrita Lahiri
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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