In ‘2-seater’ Goa, Congress tries to upset BJP’s drive in south side | Goa News

PANAJI: In sultry Goa, the battle lines are drawn for the state’s two Lok Sabha constituencies. On one side is the saffron front of BJP, while on the other is INDIA bloc led by Congress. There is a third player, too, in the dance of democracy: Revolutionary Goans (RG). The regional outfit, buoyed by its success in the 2022 assembly elections, has made a debut in the parliamentary elections.
The numbers are stacked in favour of BJP.In the 40-member House, BJP and its alliance partners have 33 MLAs, while Congress and its allies have six, with a lone RG MLA bringing up the total.
BJP has persisted with its OBC face, five-time MP and Union minister Shripad Naik belonging to the dominant Bhandari community for the North Goa Lok Sabha constituency while both Congress and RG have played the time-tested card of having a Hindu — Ramakant Khalap and Manoj Parab, respectively — from the north and a Christian — Viriato Fernandes and Rubert Pereira — from the south.

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In North Goa, the two septuagenarians — Khalap (76) and Naik(71) — are pitched against each other after 25 years. But it is South Goa constituency where BJP has brought in a political greenhorn and woman candidate to take on Navy veteran and activist-turnedpolitician Capt Viriato Fernandes to wrest the seat from Congress.
Pallavi Dempo — businesswoman from one of the oldest business families of Goa and the richest candidate in the ongoing general elections’ Phase 3, which is scheduled for May 7 — has a net worth of around Rs 1,400 crore. This is her first tryst with politics. For BJP, too, it is the first time the party has fielded a woman candidate from a Lok Sabha constituency in Goa.
On the face of it, BJP seems to be comfortably placed in South Goa seat. After engineering the defection of eight of the 11 Congress MLAs soon after the 2022 assembly elections, BJP had effectively brought 15 of the 20 assembly segments under its sway.

But beneath the veneer of high-decibel optimism, the party managers are concerned about the undercurrents of insecurity among “turncoat” MLAs, particularly those representing Christian dominated constituencies. Having won the seat only twice — in 1999 and 2014 — the saffron party knows that sometimes numbers alone are not enough.
The underlying current of resentment and distrust against the party, a circular from the archbishop of Goa and Daman — Felipe Neri Cardinal Ferrao — to all parishes, priests and Catholics asking them to vote for secular candidates who would uphold values “enshrined in the Constitution”, and its inability to break into the Christian-dominated Salcete taluka have led to uneasiness in the BJP camp.
In the 2019 polls, Salcete taluka with eight assembly constituencies alone gave Congress a lead of almost 50,000 votes leading to its candidate winning the south seat by a margin of around 10,000 votes. Though BJP has been able to restrict the combined opposition to four MLAs in Salcete, the party knows that the legislators turning saffron may not necessarily translate into more votes for it.

BJP is aware that its vote share dropped 2.2 percentage points to 51.9% in 2019, while Congress’s touched 43.6%, a rise of 6.6 percentage points, and AAP picked up 3.1% of the votes. Now, with AAP and other motley parties becoming part of INDIA bloc, BJP is desperate to recover its lost vote share and push past the 55% mark to retain both seats comfortably
In the north, Naik has been bat tling anti-incumbency, but what is in his favour is that BJP has 90% of the 20 assembly seats with it. While BJP is confident of retaining its seat, it wants to reverse the 1.1 percentage point dip in its vote share in 2019, and increase it beyond the current 57.1%. With MGP (Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party) by its side, as against last elections when it supported Congress, BJP finds itself in a comfortable position to give Naik a recordbreaking sixth consecutive term from North Goa.
In the tiniest state, where politics of personalities trumps politics of parties, it is no wonder that parties look for cues from their central leaderships when it comes to Lok Sabha elections.

Armed with PM Modi’s guarantee, a ‘double engine’ govt and Viksit Bharat as the slogan, BJP is also highlighting ‘nari shakti’ through its woman candidate. Congress has tried to frame the election in terms of “money power versus people’s power” and minorities’ fear under BJP rule, while focusing on local issues like the Mhadei diversion, coal handling, rail double tracking, and unemployment.
As the two national parties slug it out in the “two-seater” state with 11.8 lakh voters, RG has tried to sneak in with its hyperlocal hyperbole. Playing on the sentiments of the people, RG has tried to evoke the loss of Goan identity and the struggle for survival of Goans.

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