Mumbai: Earlier this month, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) announced their tie-ups with two of Goa’s regional parties — Goa Forward Party (GFP) and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), respectively.
While the announcements were made with much fanfare, the electoral records of the two regional outfits show that the pre-poll alliances might not be enough to give a fight to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The GFP is one election old. It had three MLAs in 2017, and one of those, Jayesh Salgaonkar, joined the BJP on 3 December.
The MGP, once Goa’s most powerful party, has steadily lost its glory over the last three decades. In the last two assembly polls, the MGP has won just three seats each. Overall, the party can influence votes in about six constituencies in the 40-member house.
While the TMC has contested polls in Goa earlier, it has no base in the state. The Congress was once dominant, and emerged as the single-largest party in the 2017 polls with 17 seats, but is now left with just three MLAs, with a majority of its legislators having defected to the BJP.
“In an alliance, one party has to transfer something to another party. Otherwise, it’s not an alliance. It is just a seat adjustment. GFP does not add anything to Congress. The GFP has one or two constituencies where its satraps can win,” political commentator Cleofato Coutinho told ThePrint.
“Between TMC and MGP, MGP has a presence in four or five places because its candidates are very popular there. It has nothing to do with the party. The TMC has nothing in Goa, but it can bring resources, which is what could have led the MGP to tie up with it,” Coutinho added.
MGP — from first CM to one MLA
While announcing its pre-poll alliance with the MGP, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, the party’s in-charge for Goa, told reporters, “We believe that the people of Goa who are looking for an alternative to get rid of the BJP government in the state should look no further… This alliance between the MGP and the TMC is a wonderful blend of both the Trinamool’s fighting spirit and the MGP’s deep-rooted history in Goa.”
The MGP does indeed have deep roots in Goa. It formed the first government in the state in 1963 under Dayanand Bandodkar after the state’s liberation from Portuguese rule. The party continued to be in power till 1979, when the Congress took the reins. In those early years, the MGP was rooting for Goa to be merged with Maharashtra, but the idea did not have popular support in the small coastal state.
The MGP’s strength in Goa started declining in the 1990s, after it entered into an alliance with the BJP in 1994 to keep the Congress at bay. The MGP’s voter base was the poorer section of the Hindus. While MGP leaders thought allying with the BJP would give it a boost, the national party ate into the regional party’s base bit by bit, and grew stronger in Goa, political watchers say.
In the 1994 assembly polls, the MGP won 12 of the 25 seats it contested. The BJP too, in alliance with the MGP, contested 12 seats and won four.
By the 2002 polls, the BJP had proven to be the dominant Hindu party in the state, with the MGP firmly in its shadow. The BJP had 17 MLAs and the MGP had just two.
The MGP’s performance in 2007 was similar — it won on only two seats and 19 candidates had to forfeit their deposits. In 2012 too, the party won just two seats.
In the 2017 assembly polls, MGP contested 25 of the 40 seats, but won only three — Marcaim, Savardem and Pernem — and lost its deposit in 17. Its overall vote share in the state was 11.27 per cent, and 17.42 per cent in the seats that it contested.
The MGP had then supported the BJP to form the government, while the Congress, the single largest party, was short of the halfway mark.
However, in 2019, two of the MGP’s three MLAs — Manohar Ajgaonkar and Deepak Pauskar — merged the MGP’s assembly unit with the BJP, leaving Sudin Dhavalikar as the party’s lone warrior in the house. This promoted the MGP to snap ties with the BJP.
In the 2017 polls, other than the seats it won, the only constituencies where it gave competing parties a run for their money were Bicholim, where it lost to the BJP by just 666 votes, and perhaps even Priol, where the MGP’s Deepak Dhavalikar stood second to independent candidate Govind Goude, losing by 4,686 votes. Goude is in the BJP camp, supporting the party-led government.
At Dabolim too, the MGP candidate stood second to the BJP with a losing margin of 2,494 votes.
MGP president Deepak Dhavalikar told ThePrint, “We want to defeat the BJP government in Goa. In the 1990s, the BJP was nothing. The party grew on our back. Both the Congress and the BJP have caused us a lot of troubles, by getting our leaders to defect. Today, power is money and our party does not have a lot of it. So having the backing of a bigger party like TMC becomes very important.”
“The TMC beat the BJP in West Bengal, that requires a lot of power. Tying up with such a power will surely help,” he added.
Meanwhile, political opponents are pointing to the basic difference in the ideologies of the two parties, with the MGP being a Hindu outfit that had once batted for a bikini ban in the coastal state, and the TMC calling itself secular and liberal.
Goa Forward Party
The GFP came into existence only in 2016. It was formed by former Congress leader Vijai Sardesai, who led it into the 2017 assembly polls.
The party won three seats — Fatorda, from where Sardesai contested, Siolom, and Saligao. In the short span of the GFP’s existence, it has tasted dizzying power, followed by a hard slump.
The man behind the party, Sardesai, quit the Congress in 2012 and first won from Fatorda as an independent legislator. He sat on the Opposition benches and was among the BJP’s harshest critics.
However, after the 2017 polls, Sardesai took a U-turn and joined hands with the BJP to help it form a government along with MGP.
The GFP catapulted to prominence as Sardesai became a part of a three-member Cabinet Advisory Committee in charge of the state’s affairs when CM Manohar Parrikar fell ill and was in and out of the country for treatment. Sardesai became deputy CM after Parrikar’s death, when the BJP appointed Pramod Sawant as chief minister.
But, he was also unceremoniously dropped when the BJP managed to bolster its strength by increasing numbers, following which Sardesai and the other two GFP MLAs returned to the Opposition benches.
Last week, GFP’s Saligao MLA, Jayesh Salgaonkar, joined the BJP, leaving the GFP with just two constituencies where it can boast some influence — Fatorda and Siolim.
The GFP suffered one more blow last month when its working president, Kiran Kandolkar, joined the TMC. Kandolkar is strong in the Tivim constituency, where he was a BJP MLA from 2012 to 2017. In 2017, he lost the seat to the Congress by a slim margin of 795 votes, and in 2020, left the BJP to join GFP.
Sardesai told ThePrint, “In Goa, politics is not about how you grow your footprint. It is about at whose cost you grow your footprint.”
“We share a common intent with the Congress, which is to defeat the BJP in Goa. The TMC’s intent is only to position itself as an alternative to the Congress nationally. We are working for Goa in 2022, the TMC is working for the country in 2024,” he added.
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)