Goa: North-South tug of war

With the North Goa seat considered a BJP stronghold and the South Goa seat almost certainly going to the Congress, the electoral waters in Goa are likely to be muddied by the Revolutionary Goans Party (RGP), the wild card about which the Indian faction Claims he tried. To join the coalition but failed.

The RGP contested the assembly elections for the first time in 2022 and won one seat from North Goa: St. Andre, which is a predominantly Catholic constituency (although the sitting MLA is Hindu). Party founder Manoj Parab is a geologist turned entrepreneur and activist who formed the party in 2018 to advocate for regional and local interests.

Strong on paper in South Goa, the India Bloc – comprising the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP – has decided to remove sitting Congress MP and four-time Lok Sabha member Francisco Sardinha (77). Kargil war veteran and former naval officer Captain Viriato Fernandes. South Goa was won by Sardinha in 2019, garnering 47.47 percent of the votes. An angry Sardinha has announced that he will not leave the party, but will also not attend election-related meetings.

Fernandes will take on Pallavi Dempo, executive director of Dempo Industries Ltd, who is contesting as the BJP candidate. While she is relying on her goodwill as a trustee of the family charitable trust, which manages the Dempo Sports Club, a formidable football outfit, and among the BJP old-timers, there are more women voters than men in the constituency. There is a silent resentment. The timers that he would be expected to recover from.

Meanwhile, Fernandes has contested the 2022 assembly elections from Dabolim as a Congress candidate and is known for his environmental activism. Despite having a degree in mechanical and aeronautics engineering and a double MBA, he lost the election.

The BJP is pinning its hopes on dividing the opposition votes in Benaulim, Curtorim, Navelim and Cuncolim, an area that has been a Congress stronghold until recently.

On its part, the India Bloc has fielded former Union law minister Ramakant Khalap from the North Goa constituency. It will be a battle of two giants: Khalap, himself a veteran, is pitted against sitting MP and Union Minister of State Shripad Naik, who has a long record of six-terms. While Khalap, a Maratha, is known as ‘Brother‘Naik is also fondly called ‘in the constituency’brother‘, both words acknowledge him as ‘brother’.

The North Goa seat was secured by the BJP in 1999 and has been held by the party since then. In 2019, Naik had won by securing an impressive 57.12 per cent of the votes. However, he is now handicapped by his relatively weak performance in Parliament and his ministerial responsibilities. Freedom fighter and lawyer Khalap has also been the first IT Minister of Goa and is vocal on various issues. Will this be enough to remove Naik from the post?

As far as RGP is concerned, it is unlikely to upset any of their calculations too much.