Sunday, March 26, 2017

The (very) Fast and Furious

Closing off this round of elections was the tiny coastal state of Goa. For a small state, politics in Goa is highly fragmented, with several small parties that have their local area of influence. In 2012, Manohar Parrikar was to Goa what Narendra Modi eventually became to India in 2014 - the tallest, most respected leader who had the total support of his party. But with Parrikar being moved to Delhi as Minister for Defense (and he did quite a splendid job there), and an ineffectual Laxmikant Parsekar superseding Dy. CM Francisco D'Souza to succeed him. Couple that with the defections in both the Congress (which lost some prominent members to the new formation, Goa Forward) and the BJP (over the medium of education issue), the turncoat MGP, as well as the dramatic entry of AAP in the state, and the water quickly became murky.

Before the elections, the Congress was virtually written off, having lost many members and being ridden with factions, led by a galaxy of leaders who were all short-lived CMs. However, its spectacular comeback under state president Faleiro Luizinho, defeating six sitting Ministers including Chief Minister Parsekar himself, made it the natural choice to lead a coalition. However, that's where the party was held back by its unending factionalism that was simply no match for the new Modi-Shah BJP. Within a few days, the party brought back Parrikar (who has hinted several times that he disliked working in Delhi), negotiated terms with the MGP and surprisingly Goa Forward, and cobbled together a majority. This is an even bigger achievement than in Manipur, where the party also sealed a coalition but with parties that it was already allied with outside the state. The fact that Parrikar was acceptable to Goa Forward speaks volumes of his dominance over the politics of Goa. And while all this was happening, the Congress was left fighting itself, with AICC-in-charge Digvijay Singh being unable to manage the situation. Thus, the Congress was left to lick its wounds and protest in Delhi, while Parrikar once again became Chief Minister in Panaji.

Two interesting and related outcomes from the state. One, with the defeat of so many ministers, a majority of the BJP's MLAs are now Catholics, while the Hindu majority is better represented in the Congress! This is quite a contrast to the party's strength at the national level, where it is the natural voice of Hindus. And two, AAP has once again proved to be all hype - or as the chief of Goa Forward Vijai Sardesai called it, 'Delhi pollution'. The party contested all 40 seats and lost its deposit in 39 of them - with its CM candidate Elvis Gomes finishing third in his constituency (and also losing his deposit). There's nothing more to be said of a party that has a part-time CM and full-time Twitter troll at its helm. 

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