Goa, the topical coastal paradise located in the Konkan Coast of India, overlooking the Arabian Sea, is scheduled to vote on the 04th February, 2016. Voters of 40 assembly constituencies are going to exercise their right to franchise and elect the representatives of their respective constituencies as well as the Government that shall administer the state for the next five years.
Although Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (INC) are the two main parties at the hustings, there is a preponderance of regional parties with restricted bases in a few seats. The most prominent of them is the Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party (MGP). Originally floated as a party that represented the interests of the lower caste Hindu voters, the party ruled the state for much of its initial years of statehood till 1979. Subsequently, it started losing party cadres and vote share, primarily to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which had a similar ideology and appeal to the Hindu voters. Currently, MGP’s appeal is restricted to a few disparate constituencies in Goa.
In the 2012 Assembly elections, BJP and MGP had formed an alliance that came to power, winning 24 of the 40 seats in the House, out of which BJP won 21 seats and MGP won 3. The alliance fell apart last year though, after two of the MGP ministers were dropped from the cabinet subsequent to emergence of allegations of faking their degrees. The BJP itself has split recently on the issue of continued Government support to English medium schools, as the more conservative faction of BJP and RSS, led by Subhash Velingkar, the original founder of RSS in the state, has left the party to form Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM). MGP, GSM and Shiv Sena have now joined together to form an alliance, placing themselves as a conservative alternative to the BJP.
This could have served as good news to the Indian National Congress, the principle opposition party. But chronically riddled with factionalism and hobbled by allegations of corruptions, it is not in an ideal position to take advantage of the troubles of BJP. This was evident in the way it messed up seat sharing negotiations with potential allies, ultimately being forced to go alone in the polls, with informal understanding with other candidates in three seats. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), its alliance partner in the last two Assembly elections, was left in the cold. Its negotiations with Goa Forward Party (GFP) also came undone at the last moment. So, now NCP and GFP which have pockets of influence in 2-3 seats each shall contest independently in those seats, as well as a number of other seats where they have the potential to glean a few hundred crucial votes from the Congress.
As many as four former Chief Ministers have been fielded by the Congress in the Assembly elections. Many of them do not see eye to eye with each other. For example, there are reports that Digambar Kamat, the Chief Minister of Goa in the period between 2002 and 2007, is trying to undercut the campaign of Luizinho Faleiro, another former Chief Minister who is trying to make a comeback in a neighbouring constituency.
Then there is Aam Aadmi Party who is making a desperate push for the state, keen to show itself a growing national party, with influence outside the North Indian belt of Delhi and Punjab. It has fielded candidates in 39 Assembly constituencies, but it is difficult to see it being competitive beyond half a dozen seats, mainly in South Goa. There are other smaller outfits like United Goans Party (a defunct party that has now been resuscitated to contest in a couple of seats), Goa Vikas Party (a party which has allegedly put up candidates to undercut Congress support in select constituencies) and Goa Su-Raj Party, not to mention a smattering of independent candidates in almost every seat.
Needless to say, such a bewildering array of parties contesting in small constituencies with limited number of voters makes for a very unpredictable election. In some segments, with voter size of between 25000-30000 electors, 10-12 candidates are in fray. To add to the confusion, party loyalty is extremely transient in Goa. Politicians switch parties everywhere, but in Goa the frequency is rather alarming. In Bicholim, for example, the Congress and BJP candidates have swapped their candidate while the independent MLA has become part of MGP. In Cuncolim, as many as four candidates who were part of the Congress around six months back are now contesting in the election separately. Many candidates routinely file their nominations from multiple parties, so that if the bigger party is unwilling to give them tickets, they contest on the tickets of smaller parties. Atanasio Monseratte, an erstwhile Congress MLA, was expelled from the party after he was found to be tacitly canvassing for the BJP candidate in the Panjim by-poll in 2014. He is now contesting in Panjim against the same BJP candidate and Congress has agreed to support the candidate by not fielding a candidate of their own. Jennifer Monseratte, his wife, meanwhile continues to contest on a Congress ticket from the neighbouring constituency of Taleigaon.
Even in the midst of this unpredictability and confusion, there are a few things that are apparent. One is the rise of BJP to become the numero uno party in the state. A party which even two decades back was a junior coalition partner of MGP is now governing the state on its own. Not only that, its vote share has increased steadily over the last few years. And its success in Goa has not come at the cost of alienation of religious minorities, as has been the case in a number of states in the Hindi heartland. In 2012, the party fielded six Catholic candidates, all of whom managed to win in their respective seats. Francis D’Souza, the Deputy CM of Goa, is a Catholic.
BJP has also managed to poach two sitting MLAs of Congress in the state, strengthening them in two assembly segments where they were on much weaker footing before.
The rising vote share of BJP in Goa was reflected in the results of the 2014 Lok Sabha election. If all the assembly segments in 2017 vote the same way they did in 2014, BJP would end up sweeping 33 out of the 40 seats, while Congress will only be left with 7 seats. Of course, this is not to state all the assembly segments will vote like they did in 2014. There was the Modi wave in 2014, which may have ebbed now. Further, in this election, local issues, local candidates and local parties shall matter far more.
In the Taluka wise map of Goa shown in the figure above, Bardez and Salcette are the most important ones, contributing the maximum number of assembly segments. In North Goa, BJP is extremely strong in Bardez while Congress has become vastly weakened there. Even in seats like Mapusa, Aldona and Calangute which are dominated by Catholic voters, Congress has ceded political space to BJP. BJP is also strong in Pernem (where it is expected to be tested by the MGP-GSM-Shiv Sena alliance) and Bicholim talukas. Congress is strong in Sattari taluka (thanks to the presence of Pratap Singh Rane) and Tiswadi (thanks to Atanasio Monseratte). The Ponda taluka serves as the core base of MGP with all three of its sitting MLAs coming from that region.
In South Goa, BJP has barely a presence in Salcette which has the maximum number of assembly constituencies and is heavily populated by Catholics. Digambar Kamat and Luizino Faleiro, two Congress heavyweights are contesting in this region. But while BJP is weak in this region, it does not mean Congress will sweep the area. It faces stiff competition from AAP, Goa Forward Party, Goa Vikas Party and in some cases, independents backed by BJP. In the Mormugao taluka, both BJP and Congress are equally matched while in the remaining less populated talukas, BJP is much stronger.
As mentioned above, because of multi-party contests, small size of the constituencies and frequent change in party labels, prediction of seat wise winners based on numbers in previous elections may prove to be foolhardy. Instead, based on the news reports appearing in the local media, here is a brief run down of the main contenders in each assembly segments and the candidates favoured to win there.
- Mandrem (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)
This seat is the constituency of Laxmikant Parsekar, the current Chief Minister of the state. The contest appears to be a straight fight between him and the MGP candidate. The shadow of Dayand Bandodkar, the first Chief Minister of Goa from MGP, looms large over this seat. BJP’s vote share increased to around 67% in the seat in 2014 Lok Sabha election and it appears to be a safe seat for the party. MGP and GSM have, however, campaigned strong in this constituency and both the parties have a vested interest in seeing the back of Parsekar. Congress has consistently managed to get around 30-35% share in the seat.
- Pernem (Previously – BJP, Currently – Tossup)
Similar to Mandrem, this is also a constituency which used to be a stronghold of MGP, but where BJP has been on the ascendancy in the recent few years. Around 70% of the voters of this constituency voted for the BJP candidate in the 2014 election. Expected to be a three cornered fight with advantage for the BJP candidate. Rajendra Arlekar, the current candidate, is a sitting minister (Forest, Environment and Panchayat) and former speaker. Former Panchayat minister Manohar Azgaonkar is contesting on the MGP ticket. The fact that BJP was actively considering dropping Arlekar from the constituency does not portend well for the candidate. This may see a close election.
- Bicholim (Previously – Independent, Currently – Lean MGP)
This is a direct contest between the BJP and the MGP candidate. Naresh Sawal, the MGP candidate is the current MLA. He was elected last time as an independent. The BJP candidate had fought from the assembly constituency on Congress ticket last time where as the Congress candidate had contested on a BJP ticket.
- Tivim (Previously – BJP, Currently – Tossup)
This seat will have a straight contest between Congress and BJP. Mr. Nilkant Halarnkar, the former tourism minister and state NCP president will now contest the seat on a Congress ticket. The nomination of the Shiv Sena candidate has been rejected from this seat. Although the segment is currently with BJP, it has seen close contests in the last two elections .
- Mapusa (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)
Francis D’Souza, the current Deputy Chief Minister, is a four time MLA from this segment. BJP had won 65% of the votes from this segment in 2014 general election and 74% of the votes in the 2012 Assembly election. It will take a huge miracle to unseat him.
- Siolim (Previously – BJP, Currently – Tossup)
Mr. Dayanand Mandrekar is a three term sitting MLA and a minster of civil supplies, water resources, archives and archaeology, art and culture. The main opposition will be in the form of the Goa Forward Party candidate who has tacit backing of the Congress which is not contesting from this seat.
- Saligao (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)
This seat is another strong BJP bastion. The seat is represented by Mr. Dilip Parulekar, the current minister of women and child development, ports, tourism and protocol. He is involved in multiple scams. Both Goa Forward Party and Congress have fielded candidates here and this may lead to division of votes. Agnelo Fernandes, the Congress candidate, is a former two term MLA with neighbouring Calangute.
- Calangute (Previously – BJP, Currently – Tossup)
Calangute has long been known to be a Congress bastion, but voted in favour of BJP in 2012. Surprisingly, the Congress candidate narrowly won the seat in the 2014 general election even when BJP had actually improved on its performance. It is expected to be a straight fight between Michael Lobo, the sitting MLA and Joseph Sequiera, the Congress candidate. The seat has a sizeable minority population and will see a close fight. The support of Agnelo Fernandez, former MLA and current candidate of Saligao, will be crucial.
- Porvorim (Previously – Independent, Currently – Toss Up)
Current independent MLA Rohan Khaunte is being supported by Congress which has not fielded any candidate in this constituency. However, the seat saw a close fight in 2012 and a decisive victory for BJP in the 2014 general election. It is expected to again be a close fight.
- Aldona (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)
An erstwhile Congress bastion, the seat had seen decisive victory for BJP in both the 2012 Assembly election and 2014 Lok Sabha election. Glenn Ticlo, the sitting of MLA of BJP is favoured to win in a fight with the Congress candidate Amarnath Panajikar while the AAP and MGP candidates may register some votes. This seat also has a predominantly Catholic population and may see a close contest.
- Panaji (Previously – BJP, Currently – Toss Up)
The former seat of Manohar Parrikar, this constituency is currently represented by Siddharth Kuncolienkar of BJP. This seat has voted reliably for BJP dating back at least till 1999. The main opposition contender will be Atanasio Monseratte, the candidate of United Goans Party who is being supported by Congress and has a strong base in the region. Monseratte has been an MLA of neighbouring Taleigao for multiple terms. GSM and AAP candidates are also in the fray. The AAP, BJP and GSM candidates are all from the same community which may result in a division of votes.
- Taleigao (Previously – Congress, Currently – Toss Up)
This seat is contested by Jennifer Monserratte , the sitting MLA and wife of the Atanasio Monseratte, the former MLA from this segment. This seat has been a Congress/UGDP/Monseratte stronghold over the years; however, BJP has been able to gradually increase its vote share in this seat in the recent years. This is expected to be a close fight.
- Cruz (Previously – Congress, Currently – Lean Congress)
A Congress stronghold, the sitting MLA Atanasio Monseratte has been expelled from the party and is contesting in this election from the Panaji seat on a United Goans Party ticket. Congress has instead nominated former sarpanch Antonio Fernandez. The seat was last time contested by MGP. This time both MGP and BJP have declared candidates for this seat.
- Andre (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean Congress)
Previously a Congress bastion, the seat was won narrowly by BJP in 2012. In 2014 general election, BJP continued to maintain its narrow margin over the Congress candidate in this segment. Francisco Silveira, a former three term MLA, will contest the seat on Congress ticket whereas Ramrao Wagh, brother of the current ailing MLA will contest on BJP ticket. Apart from them, there are eight other candidates in fray. This seat may swing back to Congress.
- Cumbarjua (Previously – Congress, Currently – Lean BJP)
Three time MLA Pandurang Madkaikar is favoured to win here. He is currently contesting on BJP ticket, having changed his party affiliation from Congress. Prior to that, he was with MGP.
- Maem (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)
This has become a safe seat for BJP in the recent years. However, current MLA and present speaker of the House Anant Shet has been dropped from the ticket this time. Instead the son of a former Congress MLA has been given the BJP ticket. It remains to be seen how much of an impact this will have on the poll results. Shet has, however, not filed his candidacy as an independent from this segment.
- Sanquelim (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)
This assembly segment is another BJP stronghold and it was won comfortably by the party in both 2012 Assembly election as well as 2014 general election. This is a mining belt and has been affected badly by the ban on mining. Dharmesh Saglani, the Congress candidate, does not have the full backing of the party. GSM and AAP candidates are also in the fray. Suresh Amonkar, the GSM candidate, is a former health minister.
- Poriem (Previously – Congress, Currently – Lean Congress)
This remote segment, located in the North East of the state, is the pocket borough of Pratap Singh Rane, former Chief Minister and current Leader of Opposition. He is up against Vishwajit K Rane, his own relative and the BJP candidate. This seat has traditionally remained a Congress constituency although the margin of Rane has come down in 2012 and BJP had a lead from this segment in the 2014 Lok Sabha general election.
- Valpoi (Previously – Congress, Currently – Lean Congress)
This segment is represented by Vishwajit Rane, son of Pratapsingh Rane. Vishwajit Rane has won from this seat in the last two elections, held in 2007 and 2012, although BJP had a narrow lead from this segment in 2014 Lok Sabha election.
- Priol (Previously – MGP, Currently – Toss Up)
This seat is represented by Deepak Dhavalikar, the President of MGP. BJP is supporting independent Govind Gaude in this segment,
Gaude came close to defeating Dhavalikar in 2012. This will be a close contest between the two, even though AAP and Congress have also nominated their candidates from the seat.
- Ponda (Previously – MGP, Currently – Lean Congress)
Congress won the seat thrice between 1999 and 2007. However in 2012, the seat was won by MGP, the alliance partner of BJP in the state. The interesting thing about this constituency is that BJP and MGP have together polled solidly here, but only when they fought the election in an alliance were they able to defeat Congress. Ravi Naik, a former CM, has won from this seat thrice and he will seek to utilize the division of votes between BJP and MGP to wrest back the seat. The sitting MLA is contesting on the MGP ticket.
- Siroda (Previously – BJP, Currently – Toss Up)
Siroda will see a straight fight between Mahadev Naik, the BJP MLA and current Industries and Social Welfare Minister, and Subhash Shirodkar, five time MLA. Shirodkar represented the seat between 1984 and 2007, before Naik defeated him by a whisker in 2007. In 2012, Naik was able to increase the margin of victory, but he is facing anti-incumbency this time. This will be a close fight.
- Marcaim (Previously – MGP, Currently – Lean MGP)
Sudin Dhavalikar, the chief ministerial candidate of MGP-GSM-Shiv Sena alliance has won from the seat four successive times and he is expected to win the seat this time as well.
- Mormugao (Previously – BJP, Currently – Toss Up)
This seat has had close contests between Congress and BJP in the past with a smattering of votes going to MGP. Previously a Congress stronghold, the seat has been represented by Milind Naik, the state Power Minister in the last two sessions. The margin of victory for Naik was only around 6% in 2012 and the seat may see a close fight in this election, with MGP fighting separately. A number of BJP workers have also rebelled against the sitting MLA and decided to support the Congress candidate.
- Vasco da Gama (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)
Vasco da Gama has alternated between NCP and BJP in the last few elections. Carlos Almeida had won the seat handily in 2012 and he will contest again in 2017. Joseph Philip D’ Souza, the NCP state chief and two time former MLA who had lost in 2012 is again contesting on the NCP ticket. However, unlike last time, he would not have the support of Congress which has fielded its own candidate. Incidentally, the South Goa Vice President of BJP, Mr. Krishna Salkar, is also contesting the seat as an independent, after leaving BJP. As a result, both Almeida and D’Souza will see erosion in their respective vote shares. However, considering the strong margin by which Almeida had won the seat in 2012 and the fractured nature of the field, he may win again in this seat.
- Dabolim (Previously – Congress, Currently – Lean BJP)
Congress narrowly won this seat in 2012, but it broke decisively in favour of BJP in the 2014 general election. Five time MLA Mauvin Godinho has recently quit the Congress to join BJP and will fight in the election on BJP ticket. The Congress has instead fielded Francisco Jose. BJP is likely to wrest this seat back.
- Cortalim (Previously – BJP, Currently – Toss Up)
The seat is currently represented by Alina Saldanha, the only woman minister in the cabinet, in charge of Environment, Rural Development, Science & Technology. Alina Saldanha became the MLA after the untimely death of Matanhy Saldanha who was elected in the 2012 Assembly election, Now Olencio Simoes, Matanhy’s sister’s son, is also contesting the seat on an AAP ticket. The seat has historically seen smaller parties like UGDP and GVP perform well. This year, United Goans Party, Goa Su-raj Party, Goa Vikas Party and MGP have put up candidates in the seat apart from BJP, AAP and Congress. Independent candidate Vas has also strong pockets of support. BJP never won this segment before 2012 and its lead fell to a few hundred votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Overall, this seat looks wide open.
- Nuvem (Previously – GVP, Currently – Toss Up)
Fracisco Pacheco, the sitting Goa Vikas Party MLA, has recently switched over to the Goa Su-Raj Party and is the main contender for the seat along with Wilfred D’Sa, the Congress candidate. Alexo Sequeira, former Congress strong man from this segment, has been denied tickets and may be tacitly supporting Pacheco. The AAP and NCP candidates are also in the fray. This appears to be close contest.
- Cartolim (Previously – Congress, Currently – Lean Congress)
This is a straight fight between Congress and AAP. A traditional Congress bastion populated by mostly Catholic voters, BJP has little if any presence in this segment. Arthur D’Silva, the BJP candidate, is considered an outsider in this area. Sitting MLA Lourenco’s main contender is Edwin Vaz, the AAP candidate.
- Fatorda (Previously – Independent, Currently – Lean GFP)
The seat has alternated between Congress and BJP several times before it was won by Vijai Sardesai, an independent in 2012. Vijai Sardesai has since formed a new part called Goa Forward Party. Although the talks of an alliance between Congress and GFP have not materialized, no Congress candidate has been put up in this segment. Instead Joseph Silva, a local Congress leader, will contest the seat on GVP ticket. The main fight in this constituency shall be between Sardesai and Damodar Naik, the BJP candidate. Sardesai is favoured to win here.
- Margao (Previously – Congress, Currently – Lean Congress)
Digambar Kamat, former Chief Minister, has represented this segment since 1994. However, the BJP candidate eked out a lead in this constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and there may be a tough fight in 2017. Kamat is still favoured to win. The main contender is Sharmad Raiturkar of BJP.
- Benaulim (Previously – GVP, Currently – Toss Up)
This is an open seat with multiple candidates in fray. Sitting MLA Caetano Silva is contesting the seat as an independent and has tacit support of BJP and part of the Congress workers in this seat. Another Congress leader Maria Rebelo is fighting on the GVP ticket. GVP was incidentally the winner last time. Veteran politician Churchill Alemao, the owner of Churchill Brothers, is contesting the seat on NCP ticket while the Congress candidate Edwino Barreto is a relative lightweight. Add to that the AAP and GSRP candidates. But the main contest is expected to be four cornered in nature among Silva, Alemao, Rebelo and Barreto.
- Navelim (Previously – Independent, Currently – Lean Congress)
The seat was won last time by Independent candidate Avertano Furtado who had defeated Congress stalwart Churchill Alemao. This time, the Labour and Fisheries Minister will be up against Luizinho Faleiro, former CM and another veteran Congress politician. Faleiro is favoured to win the vote. However, Edwin Cardozo, an independent backed by Goa Forward Party, may take away some of the votes of Faleiro. On the other hand, BJP is gong to support Furtado instead of putting up a candidate of its own. As a result, Satya Vijay Naik, a MGP candidate who has the backing of some of the anti-Furtado forces in BJP, may carry a chunk of the Hindutva votes.
- Cuncolim ((Previously – BJP, Currently – Toss Up)
This is another open seat where a number of viable candidates are competing. While Rajan Naik is the sitting BJP MLA, he is facing severe anti-incumbency factor and the presence of a Shiv Sena candidate. The Congress Party has been weakened by multiple defections and apart from Clefacio Dias, the official nominee, Joaquim Alemao, an independent, John Monteiro, the GVP candidate, and Devendra Dessai, the Shiv Sena candidate, are also former Congressmen. Another strong contender is Elvis Gomes, the chief ministerial candidate of AAP.
- Velim (Previously – Independent, Currently – Toss Up)
Around 12 candidates are competing in this seat and no body is a particular favourite. Benjamin Silva, an Independent, is the sitting MLA and his main competitor is Felipe Neri Rodriguez, the Congress candidate, who he had defeated last time. AAP Candidate Cruz Silva and GFP’s Anthony Rodriguez are also strong contenders.
- Quepem (Previously – Congress, Currently – Toss Up)
Chandrakant Kavlekar, the current MLA of Congress, won the seat in 2012 thanks to split of the BJP vote among various candidates. However BJP has this time managed to present a united force behind Prakash Velip, the candidate. As a result, there may be a close fight for the seat with slight edge to Velip. The AAP candidate may also take away some votes from Congress.
- Curchorem (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)
This is a straight fight between Nilesh Cabral, the sitting MLA of BJP and Shyam Satardekar, the GSM candidate. Satardekar, contesting on a Congress ticket, had incidentally lost the seat to Cabral in 2012. Cabral is favoured to win the seat.
- Sanvordem (Previously – BJP, Currently – Toss Up)
Similar to Curchorem, this is also a straight fight between Ganesh Gaonkar, the sitting BJP MLA and Deepak Pauskar, the candidate of MGP. Gaonkar is facing significant anti-incumbency headwinds.
- Sanguem (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)
This is a BJP stronghold where the party has won five consecutive times. Subhash Phal Dessai, the sitting MLA, is favoured to win here, although he faces stiff competition from Ravindra Velip of AAP, Vassu Gaonkar of MGP and Savitri Kavlekar of Congress.
- Canacona (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)
Canacona is another BJP stronghold where it has won three consecutive elections. However, this time, it has decided to drop Ramesh Tawadkar, the sitting party MLA and minister, in favour of Vijai Pai Khot. Tawadkar has resigned from the party and is contesting the election as an independent. The fight is expected to be between Tawadkar and Khot.
Based on the seat by seat analysis, the following emerges as the range of seats each of the political parties is expected to garner:
|Name of the Party||Range of Seats Expected|
|Bharatiya Janata Party||12-25|
|Indian National Congress||8-17|
|MGP-GSM-Shiv Sena Alliance||2-5|
|Goa Forward Party||1-2|
|United Goans Party||0-1|
|Aam Aadmi Party||0-4|
Thus while BJP may be expected to emerge as the single largest party, Congress may spring a surprise and finish ahead of it. Even if it does not, it may finish well within striking distance of BJP. The best scenario for BJP will be to obtain majority on its own, while the best scenario for Congress will be to emerge as the single largest party and form a Government with the support of parties like United Goans Party, Goa Forward Party, Goa Vikas Party, Goa Su-Raj Party, independents, etc. AAP, on the other hand, does not appear to be the strong favourite in any particular segment and may at best, hope to win 2-3 seats.
A point to note here is that candidates belonging to the same political party often simultaneously under perform or over perform in a number of seats. That is, the parties may perform close to the minimum or maximum limits shown in the table above, and may even breach the limits. In a multi-party first past the post system being followed in Goa, the swing of a few percentage points may change the winning party in a number of seats. In other words, the above limits should not be taken as hard and fast projections; however, the indications are clear – BJP is ahead in the current horserace, but it may fall short of majority while Congress is behind BJP and it may need the support of other parties to form a Government in case BJP falls short.