Undoubtedly, the 2022 Assembly Elections in Goa will be the most exciting and closely fought elections in Goa's political history. Apart from multiple players in the fray, both old and new, there have been structural changes to the two main parties in Goan politics. While BJP's line-up of 40 candidates has a huge presence of Congress imports, Congress has been reduced to 2 MLAs from the 17 they had at the time of 2017 results. While Congress has accused BJP of poaching MLAs, BJP has often questioned Congress's ability to keep the flock together due to its internal functioning coupled with lack of leadership. While BJP has a clear leadership at the party & Government level, Congress looks a pale replica of its once formidable self with their State President being asked to continue despite resigning twice from the post.
It is important to note that this is the first Assembly election in over two decades in the absence of Shri Manohar Parrikar. He has always been the leading campaigner-cum-strategist for the BJP and his absence is being felt. Is BJP Goa ready to move on? This will be one of the key questions that the 2022 Assembly results will answer. As we see in every election, BJP has taken this election seriously too. Central leaders like CT Ravi, Devendra Fadnavis and others are virtually camped in the State working on the finer nuances of the campaign. This is also probably the first election in Goa, where BJP is being ably helped by a team of political/campaign strategists appointed by the central BJP. This has helped BJP kickstart its campaign much before its opponents. For the Congress, the campaign is largely headed by Dinesh Gundu Rao, who has been stationed in Goa for several months now. P Chidambaram also has been making a regular appearance. Congress's newfound aggression seems to be attributed to these two leaders who insist that Congress in Goa is undergoing reforms and not just cosmetic changes.
A part of this reform is evident from how they treated their alliance partner Goa Forward Party. Once hopeful of being a kingmaker, Vijai Sardessai was forced to stay happy with Congress's whatever little was thrown his way. After initially hitting out at the Congress & flirting with the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Vijai was quick to realise that he was largely a Fatorda based player with limited scope to become the kingmaker he wished to be. Through denial of tickets in constituencies like St Andre, which Sardessai had nurtured through his partyman Jagadish Bhobe, Congress sent out a clear message that it was open for alliances on their terms. Needless to say, Bhobe is now a candidate for the TMC. The second indication of Congress trying to act firmly came when it refused a ticket to Alexio Reginaldo Lourenco, who was given the ceremonial post of working president to stop his exit to AAP. He eventually defected to TMC despite his candidate being announced from the Congress list. He resigned from TMC shortly after only to realise he was unwanted in the Congress. Congress instead chose Moreno Rebello, who had defected to the BJP upon the declaration of Lourenco from Congress.
While all this seems confusing, one party has added a lot of flavour to the Goa elections: TMC. Nowhere on the horizon until three or four months back, TMC made possibly one of the most dramatic entries into State politics here by outsourcing their work to Prashant Kishore led IPAC. While Kishore may try to fool people with his 'not involved with IPAC' comments, he was stationed here for months talking to & meeting with a group of Goans consisting of editors, journalists, politicians, influencers, etc. While initially, it seemed impossible, TMC finally emerged as a player through their hoarding blitzkrieg that took Goa by storm. They then went on a hiring spree breaking Congress's ranks and the Goa Forward, which almost merged with the TMC until Sardessai backed out at the last minute. While TMC has maintained its news and noise value, the actual electoral value needs to be seen. Until ten days ago, TMC did not even have a state committee, and all decisions were taken from Bengal. The situation does not seem any different post the committee's declaration as well, but exits from the TMC have started. First was Reginald, followed by their founding General Secretary Advt Yatish Naik, who resigned yesterday citing failure to keep their word. Many in the Opposition believe that TMC's only contribution in this election will be their alliance with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which calls itself a Hindutva-based party. A natural alliance partner to the BJP, elections would have been heavily titled in BJP's favour had they forged an alliance with the MGP. However, the TMC, despite their anti-Hindu work, was able to rope in MGP, and since then, MGP has been pushed to the back foot trying to explain to the people of Goa that they are not anti-Hindu. Even the TMC Supremo Mamata Banerjee, along with Abhishek Banerjee and other top leaders, had to go on a temple spree in Goa to cover up their anti-Hindu image.
BJP's work in the past ten years is reflective of the good governance that it talks about. The BJP's work in many areas has been stellar – from roads and highways, iconic bridges, school and university education, healthcare insurance, financial assistance to the needy and more
During Mamata's first visit to the State, she was largely expected to set an anti-BJP agenda and make significant announcements. However, the narrative across the country was how Mamata was greeted with Jai Shri Ram hoardings across the State, which forced TMC & IPAC to go back to the drawing board. Getting MGP on board was supposed to improve TMC's image, but the alliance seems to have hurt MGP's. TMC has also launched various schemes where they are asking people of Goa to register themselves. In many ways, it is a data collection exercise for IPAC. People are increasingly looking at TMC as a Bengal based vote cutter. Will they come out of this image? The answer will only be known on March 10.
Amidst all this chaos, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has not been far behind. They first contested the 2017 Assembly Elections and ran an extremely spirited campaign with Kejriwal's face. They even announced a Chief Ministerial face in Elvis Gomes, a retired Goa Civil Service Officer. AAP offered countless freebies, yet Goans did not fall prey, and the party lost its deposit in 38 of the 39 seats it contested. Since the 2017 election, Gomes has joined the Congress while many others continue to work on strengthening the organisation. AAP was a close second in the race for hoardings, and their freebies have been well advertised this time too. Despite this, AAP's influence is seen in only a few pockets. Should tactical voting take place this time too, AAP might end up losing deposit in 90 per cent of the seats.
Coming to the BJP, its voters have to decide if BJP's work in the past ten years is reflective of the good governance that it talks about. The BJP's work in many areas has been stellar – from roads and highways, iconic bridges, school and university education, healthcare insurance, financial assistance to the needy and more. The BJP voters would assess this and see whether they see the difference. The Congress voters too are in a dilemma. They have to evaluate a bigger question: Is Congress the right opponent to defeat the BJP? There is no other party in Goa that can claim to have a pan Goa presence, enabling them to come even close to forming a Government. Amidst all this confusion, one thing looks certain – this election would be pivotal for Goa one way or another.