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Goa results: Congress stages comeback, but fails to get a majority

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-03-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: Even as it suffered a severe drubbing in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and fought a fierce battle with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to retain Manipur, the Congress put up a remarkable performance in Goa, winning 17 seats, though it fell short of a majority.

In a closely fought election that dragged on despite Goa’s assembly, with 40 seats, being the smallest among the five states that went to polls, the Congress nosed ahead and resurrected itself from an abysmal performance in 2012, when it won nine assembly seats. The Congress confined the BJP to only 13 seats, down from 21 in 2012.

The simple majority mark in Goa is 21.

Track 2017 election results here

The scale of the BJP’s defeat in Goa can be gauged from these figures: Chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar and six other BJP ministers lost the elections, showing the extent of anti-incumbency sentiment in the state. Of these seven ministers, four lost by a margin of more than 5,000 votes, a significant loss given the small size of Goa’s assembly constituency.

Only two ministers from the Parsekar cabinet won—deputy chief minister Francis D’souza won by over 6,800 votes while Milind Naik won only by 140 votes.

The Goa Forward Party, ditched by the Congress a few days before nominations could be filed, and Goa’s oldest regional outfit—the Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which broke off its alliance with BJP before elections—have won three seats each. Another three seats have gone to independent candidates, while the Nationalist Congress Party has emerged victorious in one constituency.

Goa election results: Live updates

These 10 seats have become key to government formation in Goa in the event of a hung assembly. Even as votes were still being counted, BJP president Amit Shah said the BJP would form a government in Goa.

In an unexpected outcome, the Aam Aadmi Party, which made a strong debut in this coastal state and had ambitions to win the elections on its own, has come a cropper. Elvis Gomes, former bureaucrat and the AAP’s chief ministerial candidate, suffered a loss in South Goa’s Cuncolim constituency.

Rebellion by the cadres of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), failure to stitch up a pre-poll alliance with the MGP and infighting have resulted in the BJP getting stuck at only 13 seats, after winning Goa for the first time on its own in 2012.

On the other hand, the Congress, under the leadership of state president Luizinho Faleiro, has achieved a remarkable turnaround winning 17 seats, eight more than its tally in 2012. Anti-incumbency sentiment against the BJP government, organizational changes and a low-profile campaign seem to have helped the Congress.

Also read | Meet Luizinho Faleiro, the man who may have saved Congress in Goa

The BJP had wrested power from the Congress in 2012 by raising issues related to illegal mining and promised to bring back the money lost by state due to it. However, the Congress was able to drive home the message that some sections of society in Goa felt that the BJP had failed to keep its poll promises, including a ban on casinos and resolving the Mopa airport issue.

The failure to win a simple majority in Goa and even emerge the single largest party is a setback for Union defence minister and former Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who led the BJP campaign.

What makes the party’s failure in Goa more striking as compared to its victories in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand is the fact that chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar himself lost from Mandrem constituency by around 3,500 votes.

While the BJP left no stone unturned, with Parrikar being the star campaigner, the anti-incumbency factor seems to have swung things in the Congress’s favour. A higher voter turnout usually leads to change of government of the state and the record 83% turnout this time seems to have resulted in no clear winner in this five-cornered contest.

The MGP broke off its alliance with the BJP just ahead of elections, but indicated that it could go team up again depending on the election results.

Similarly, the Congress had announced just a few days before nominations could be filed that it wouldn’t enter a pre-poll alliance with either with the NCP or the GFP.

On Saturday though, news agency PTI quoted senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh as saying, “We will not mind approaching like-minded parties such as Goa Forward if we require additional numbers to form the next government.”

The alliance between the MGP, the Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) and the Shiv Sena seems to dented the BJP’s vote share.

In October 2016, RSS rebel Subhash Velingkar formed the GSM with the only objective of defeating the BJP. Soon after, the MGP broke off ties the BJP and joined the GSM and the Shiv Sena. Together, the alliance has got a vote share of more than 13%, with MGP alone getting nearly 12% of votes.

BJP officials in Goa conceded that the MGP-GSM-SS alliance had eaten into its vote share. “In South Goa, AAP took away some BJP votes and in North the GSM-led alliance damaged us on several seats,” admitted a BJP strategist in Goa who did not wish to be named.

The BJP’s vote share fell from 34.6% in 2012 to 32.5% this year—not a very large decline in general but quite significant in a state like Goa where the average size of a constituency is only 27,000 voters and which had multi-cornered contests this time around.

Though the Congress gained eight seats, its vote share has also declined, from 30.6% in 2012 to 28.3% this year.

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