By Tanima Banerjee:
We are all aware of the election fever gripping the nation recently. Elections to the State Assemblies are being held in five states; Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa, with polling already being commenced in most of the above mentioned states, with most of the states seeing a peaceful polling, and a fair percentage of people exercising their franchise effectively while they select their candidates to represent in the State Legislative Assemblies. The state on which the spotlight would be flooded on March 3 while it selects its 40 representatives to the State Assembly would be the state of Goa. The main contest seems to be between the Congress led ruling government of Goa and the opposition party of the Bhartiya Janata Party.
Goa can be seen to have a very unstable political history since 1990, before which the regional Maharshtrawadi Gomantak Party, which is the oldest party in the state, was the ruling party since Goa’s liberation in 1961. Soon after this, Goa saw great political turbulence. It is probably one of the only states to have seen torrid shifts in power, with 14 government changes over 15 years till the President’s rule was established in 2005 for a brief tenure. It was only in the 2007 by-elections that the Congress came to power in a coalition with the National Congress Party (NCP) and the MGP. All was well, till the Congress came under attack by the opposition party (BJP) over the illegal mining scandal a few months back and the general stigma of corruption attached to the Congress throughout the country, thanks to the recent Anna Hazare movements. The Congress led government under Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, came under serious scrutiny at the face of the elections, when Goa was celebrating its 50 years of liberation from the Portuguese rule. Much is being said about the government’s inaction and corrupt practices regarding the illegal mining issue, which is seen as propagating unequal wealth distribution, pollution and endangering the water resources of the state. The Congress as of now is tackling questions regarding this by shifting the blame game to Karnataka, where illegal mining is also an issue.
But that is not all; Congress is also facing agitations over the regional plan, which is being attacked for being unsatisfactory and having lapses within it. Mr. Pratapsingh Rane, now the in-charge of the party’s election campaign, is making promises to “review lapses if there are any in the land use plan“. He said, “the Congress has made a promise on this. All concerns in this regard can be taken care of. There are provisions to take local bodies into confidence as per 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments, and the government has made efforts to accommodate their views in the regional plan. Still the plan is open for corrections“. On being asked about the party’s chief aims during the election campaign, he says that the main agenda for the party is to provide employment and improving infrastructure.
Despite all these promises that the Congress is making, the biggest battle for it would be to combat the charges of corruption held against it. These charges have led to a lot of sudden twists and turns for the party ahead of the polls. The MGP has pulled off its alliance with the Congress right before the elections, and joined hands with the BJP, owing to the corruption in the Kamat led Congress government. Since the MGP has only 2 MLAs in the assembly, which is a pity owing to its history in Goan government, this break-off from the Congress won’t affect its stability. BJP president, Nitin Gadkari has proposed a clean, efficient government in the “natural” alliance it has formed with the MGP, while contesting for 31 seats and letting MGP fight for 8 seats. The Congress too recently announced its list of 33 candidates, where 1 candidate would be a Muslim, catering to the demands of Muslim representation by the Muslim community in the State.
Even though the Congress is being charged with all sorts of accusations and attacked on all sorts of issues and being termed “Anti-people”, the BJP continues to reach out to the minorities, mainly women, old people and the downtrodden classes, while playing its propagandist ‘Hindutva’ card and wooing the voters on its populist strategies. At the same time, BJP is also trying to mitigate from its pro-Hindu image by promising 25% seats to the Christians of Goa, the highest representation the party has so far given to minorities. Despite these political manipulations and corruption in no degree being less in the party, still calling itself clean and corrupt-free is a paradox. Yet it has got the media support when it described the ruling Congress as promoting “Family Raj” where tickets were being given in majority to the family members and the maximum power being concentrated only in the hands of a few powerful governing families. The Congress doesn’t seem much bothered by these charges, as they appear to be confident that they give tickets only to those who have the capability to govern. All the charges and counter-charges, coalition breaks, and assimilations into other parties at the brink of elections have given this year’s Goan elections a very twisted face.
What makes this year’s election really interesting is the intense political drama happening in the state right before the elections, the propaganda politics played by both the big parties and the uncertain results it could yield. How the Congress would be tackling the allegations, and whether the public could trust the party over the alleged corruption charges would be something to see. Or will BJP’s “political” attempts to woo the minority help? Are the people going to trust it now, with an old, regional party by its side, or will it stand by its present government, trusting its promises and experienced political names and giving it another chance? This is the question which could be answered only when the poll results will be out by the 9th of March. Whether the government that would come to power after these elections and the dissolution of the Assembly in June this year would be able to address the real problems of the state and its “aam aadmi” would be something that only time would tell. The tables have been laid, the cards have been played, the strategies, both overt and covert have been applied. The Heat’s on. May the best public-wooer win!
ImageÂ courtesy:Â http://hbse10thresults.blogspot.in/2010/10/india-vs-australia-ind-vs-aus-3rd-odi.html