By P.K.Balachandran

: Seven Indian States are due to have their Legislative Assembly elections in 2022. These elections are expected to give a foretaste of the political scenario in 2024, when the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be facing parliamentary elections across the country.

Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa are to go for elections in early 2022. Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will have elections later in the year. The BJP has a lot at stake in these elections because barring Punjab, it rules these States. It is expected to put its heart and soul, money and muscle, into the campaigns.

In some of these States, the BJP is expected to have a walk over. But in Punjab and Goa its chances appear to be less even though the Congress party unit in Punjab is divided and the one in Goa is in a shambles. Reports in the Goan media suggest that the BJP government there has been getting progressively unpopular. The BJP came second in the 2017 elections but managed to continue in power by naked horse trading as well as help from a partisan Governor.

In its second term in Goa, the BJP continued to disappoint the people. Its government had mishandled the COVID pandemic, allegedly due to underhand dealings in the supply of oxygen. Even after a High Court intervention, the BJP government denied that any deaths occurred due to a shortage of oxygen. Peaceful protesters were detained. Thousands of jobs were promised but not delivered.

BJP cadres are said to be nervous. The anti-incumbency factor has been working. BJP has been in power for 10 straight years. There is a fear that horse trading may not work this time round. However, party leaders are hoping that a fractured opposition with a broken Congress will work to their advantage. To catch the votes of the Hindu-majority of Goa (67% of the population) the BJP encouraged the Bajrang Dal to enter Goan politics to exhibit “the strength of the Hindus”.


As for the Congress. It is a broken reed, with many MLA leaving it to seek shelter either in the BJP (because it is in power) or the Trinamool Congress (TMC), which has emerged as a party of hope for the secular-minded. The Congress’s decline in the Goa Assembly began the year after 2017 State elections. In 2019, a set of MLAs quit the Congress and merged their breakaway faction with the ruling BJP. Others went individually. Quickly the Congress’ strength was reduced from 17 to five in the House of 40. Recently, the Congress lost MLA  and former Chief Minister Luizinho Faleiro to the TMC, reducing its strength to four.

Trinamool Congress

The challenge to the BJP might well come from the Trinamool Congress (TMC) led by the firebrand West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, a recent entry into Goan politics. The TMC and Mamata Banerjee had distinguished themselves recently by beating the BJP hollow in their home turf, West Bengal, when most pundits predicted that the BJP would sweep the elections as it did in the 2019 parliamentary elections.

Banerjee and the TMC are now aiming at taking over from the Congress the role of being the main challenger to the BJP at the all-India level. In fact, the TMC’s Bengali organ has declared that Banerjee is the fittest to take on BJP Supremo Narendra Modi at the national level.

The TMC’s secular credentials have emerged as the clearest alternative to the BJP’s Hindutvic  ideology. And in Goa, secularism is an important factor because 25% of the population is Christian. In contrast to the TMC, the Congress has deliberately diluted its secular image and is parading its “Hinduness” in the hope of getting votes of the Hindu majority. The TMC has had no reservations about projecting its secular character. Through the recent West Bengal legislative elections, the TMC had proved that opposing the BJP ideologically can pay rich dividends. The Congress is still not sure about this even though it is being dismissed by the electorate as a worthless alternative to the BJP. No wonder it’s score in the West Bengal elections was zero.

Be that as it may, the Congress pooh poohs the TMC’s claims. As senior Congress leader P.Chidambaram put it, unlike the TMC, the Congress is entrenched in Goa having wielded power for years. It vibes with the local culture and ethos. The TMC on the other hand is a West Bengali party. In the last Goa Assembly elections held in 2017, the Congress got 17 seats as opposed to BJP’s tally of 13 seats, though it could not form the government because of political horse trading and the Governor’s machinations. In the last elections, it showed a voter base of 28.4% which it believes is still with it.

The TMC is hell bent on winning the Goan electionse. It has sent its MP Derek O’Brian, a Catholic, to work in Goa. Stars like Mahua Mitra will also be working. Mamata Banerjee herself will spend two days in Goa at the end of October. The TMC has engaged Prashant Kishore’s political strategy group, the Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC), which had had a successful run in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, to advise it on tactics and strategy.

Former Congress Chief Minister Luizinho Faleiro, now with the TMC, will be of great help too. The entire block-level leadership of the Congress party, including President Conceicao Peixote and over 170 workers, have joined the Goa TMC. Over 150 people including the Sarpanch and four Panchs of Molcornem Panchayat joined the party in the presence of TMC`s Parliamentary leader in the Rajya Sabha, Derek O`Brien and independent MLA from Sanguem Prasad Gaonkar in Sanguem.

Stating the basic reason for these upheavals, Faleiro said: “Democracy in India is under threat and attempts are being made to polarize the country. A change, and a credible one at that, is the need of the hour. This can only happen under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee.”



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