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Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat. Photo: Mint

Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat. Photo: Mint

Close fight on the cards, say analysts

Close fight on the cards, say analysts

Panaji/Bangalore: Goa, India’s smallest state, has had a stable government since 2007 —in the 20 years before that, it had 15 governments—and while the ruling Congress-led alliance that includes the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) is counting on that to return to power, analysts say it will be a close fight between this coalition and that led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“When history will be written on Goa, it will be mentioned that after 1987, when Rajiv Gandhi gave statehood, the first chief minister to complete a five-year term was the MLA of Margao constituency, Mr Digambar Kamat," said the chief minister.

Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat. Photo: Mint

In the current 40-member Goan assembly, the Congress has 16 members and the opposition BJP has 14. The Congress’ allies the NCP and the MGP have three and two seats, respectively. The Save Goa Front has two seats and there are two independents. The United Goans Democratic Party has one member.

Kamat’s government has been beset by a series of controversies in recent months, including those related to excessive mining in the state. Reports, first by a legislative committee and then by a one-man judicial commission, have blamed Kamat for much of this, especially since he has held the mining portfolio in both the Congress-led and previous BJP-led governments.

Kamat denies the allegations and adds that many cases have been filed against mining firms and penalties of 180 crore been recovered. “During the last 10 years, not a single mining lease or even a prospecting licence has been given by the government," he said. “It was on (the basis of) my two letters written to (then Union environment minister) Jairam Ramesh in 2010 that he imposed a moratorium on environment clearances (for mining projects) in the state."

The Congress is also beset by problems similar to those faced across India by most parties, other than, possibly, the Communist ones.

One such is related to family members of political heavyweights being preferred as candidates. Controversial PWD, science and technology, and rural development minister, and former chief minister—Churchill Alemao—has three family members apart from himself contesting the elections, one of them on an NCP ticket. “There is nothing wrong if some candidates happen to be the sons and daughters of certain politicians. India is a democratic country and everybody is free to contest," said Alemao.

Another has to do with the chief ministerial candidate of the Congress coalition.

Analysts say the speaker of the assembly, Pratapsinh Rane, a former chief minister from the Congress party, has positioned himself as a contender.

The BJP coalition has positioned former chief minister Manohar Parrikar as its chief ministerial candidate. The BJP has also entered into an alliance with the MGP, which has quit the Congress coalition. The MGP will contest eight seats in the coming elections.

Parrikar claims his party will come to power because people are tired with the Congress. “Goa is being sold by this Congress government, because of their corruption, nepotism and total maladministration," he said. “The result today is people are suffering because of inflation and high unemployment."

The BJP has also been actively wooing the Christian community—this constitutes 23% of the electorate in Goa—and is supporting eight Christian candidates, including some contesting as independent candidates. The Christian community has traditionally supported the Congress.

Analysts say the performance of smaller parties and independent candidates will affect the fate of the two main political parties. Goa’s small population of 1.4 million makes mainstream candidates particularly vulnerable to votes being taken away by small parties or independents. One non-mainstream candidate who’s got a lot of attention is Bismark Dias, who’s contesting from the Cumbharjua constituency.


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