Sometimes, lurking suspicion and fear can make or break an election. This came startlingly true for anti-BJP voters in the Goa elections in the sonic rise of the Revolutionary Goans Party, and its devastating effects on the anti-incumbency vote.
Last month, I had on the prospects of political newbies that had jumped into the electoral fray, from the Trinamool Congress to AAP, but had particularly picked the RGP as the first party to watch out for. For there was a dire sense of unease among leaders of the anti-BJP vote bank, especially among the Catholic community, about the RGP’s motives.
As I had reported then, the unease came from several factors. First, the party got its election symbol – a football – from the election commission in January under dubious circumstances. Its former ally, the Goa Su-Raj Party, had accused the RGP and EC of betrayal for allotting its symbol to its former partner. Why did the EC rush in overnight to give the RGP legal status?
Then, the RGP has an ideology similar to the RSS – of exclusivity and chauvinism – with its catchy slogan of “Goa for Goans”, alluding to a vision of a truly regional party for people from the state.
This drew in huge support from Goans abroad, and a look at their social media revealed that a significant number of them were Catholic NRIs. It was here that it drew consternation among Catholic influencers in the state, who suspected the RGP was here to divide the Catholic vote, especially in swing constituencies in the Salcete belt in the south, which is predominantly Catholic, and in the Tiswadi talukas of St Cruz and St Andre up to Cumbarjua in the north.
The party, which contested 38 of the 40 seats, came third, polling 9.96 percent, after the BJP’s 34.14 percent, and Congress’ 23.90 percent. Yet, the EC has strangely chosen to hide the RGP in its party-wise vote share pie by clubbing it with “others”.
But, true to course, the RGP hit the anti-BJP vote by eating into votes in the Salcete region, which is predominantly Catholic, and a traditional Congress fortress. In the eight constituencies of Salcete Taluka, the Congress lost against a wall of opposition parties, including the Trinamool, NCP and AAP.
For starters, in Navelim, the Congress with 3,716 votes could have defeated the winning BJP candidate who got 5,084 votes, if the RGP had not eaten into 2,068 votes. The Trinamool came second with 4,682 votes here. In Velim, the RGP’s Dagley Fernandes polled 3,604 votes, ranking fourth after Trinamool’s 4,039 votes. Cruz Silva became the first AAP MLA here by defeating the Congress with a margin of just 212 while clocking 5,279 votes. In Fatorda, Congress ally Vijai Sardesai won over the BJP by a mere 1,490 votes, despite the RGP taking away 1,541 votes.
In Curtorim, the Congress could have given its former MLA and now Independent legislator Reginaldo Lourenco a run for his votes, if the RGP’s 3,423 votes, and AAP’s 2,714 votes could have been clubbed to give it the momentum it needed. In Nuvem, the Congress won comfortably but it was the RGP which came second, not the BJP.
In Benaulim, the Congress, with 4,609 votes, was pushed to the third place by the RGP which clocked 3,784 votes – TMC’s Churchill Alemao came second with 4,996 votes while AAP won with 6,267.
In Canacona, BJP’s Ramesh Tawadkar won the seat with 8,636 votes against the Congress’s 5,227 votes. However, with the RGP’s 1,574 votes, Trinamool’s 1,050 and Catholic independent Isidore Fernandes’s 5,835 votes, the BJP could have been defeated if the opposition were to fight together.
In north Goa, in Tivim, the Trinamool could have got its first seat if the RGP had not eaten into anti-BJP votes – it got 4,959 votes, pushing the TMC to the second spot with 7,172 votes while the BJP got 9,190. In Mapusa, the BJP won by 1,604 votes against the Congress; TMC and AAP got 1,350 and 1,476 votes here, respectively.
The list is endless.
In Taleigao, the BJP scraped through with 1,604 votes more than the Congress; the RGP got 1,628. In Maem, the BJP cruised through with 7,636 votes, as opposed to Congress ally Goa Forward Party’s 4,613 votes – the RGP took away 3,933 votes. In Sanqelim, the BJP won by 381 votes against the Congress; the RGP took away 740. In Pernem, the BJP won by a margin of 3,288 votes defeating the MGP; the RGP got 2,755 votes.
The Congress won by a whisker in Siolim despite the RGP getting 3,134 votes, or in Saligao, where the Congress registered a win despite the RGP polling 1,888 votes.
However, the – including Delihla Lobo of the Congress, and Jennifer Monseratte and Deviya Rane of the BJP – won, and their husbands registered decisive victories, despite the RGP. The RGP also won its first seat in St Andre with party president Viresh Borkar in the seat.
BJP rebel and independent candidate Savitri Kavlekar lost to the rival BJP candidate by a sheer margin of 1,429 votes. Guess which party took away the anti-BJP votes? The RGP, with 1479 votes.
While the results are yet another call for a strategic opposition unity, those who questioned the motives of the RGP are now convinced that it has been propped up by the BJP. Others say that the Trinamool Congress and Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC played an equally dirty game to bring the Congress to its knees. If there is an opposition conspiracy theory, can Kishor – who has always said that the Congress does not have the divine right to lead any opposition coalition – be far behind?
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