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By Splitting Opposition Votes, The BJP Managed To Hold On To Goa

pramod sawant

Despite Falling short of one seat to cross the majority figure, the BJP formed the government for the third consecutive term in Goa on Monday. After a delay of 17 days, Dr Pramod Sawant took oath as the Chief Minister of Goa in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other dignitaries.

BJP’s pre-polls rivals MGP joined hands with the party along with three independent legislators for it to claim for the government. 

Despite the high level of anti-incumbency against Sawant, moreover the BJP, the saffron party’s win in the state assembly election was not a fluke but rather a well-orchestrated strategy of denying its rival, the Congress, the opportunity to consolidate the anti-BJP votes. 

Being a 40-constituency assembly with an average voters count of 23,000 in each constituency, every seat becomes vital in deciding the fate of aspiring parties. 

As a result, the BJP won 20 seats, while Congress stood second with 12 seats. The AAP and MGP both managed to secure two seats each, while the Revolutionary Goan Party (RGP) opened its account with a single seat. 

The remaining three seats were won by independent legislators. The TMC, which gave close contest in a few constituencies, did not manage to get any wins. 

On the campaigning front, the TMC and AAP canvassed as an alternate to Congress. TheMGP set a revenge narrative against BJP for detaching the party out of the alliance in 2019. Meanwhile, RGP propagated against migrants, evoking the fear of migrants taking over local businesses. 

On the other hand, Congress did not set any issue-based narrative and was dependent on its brand of being a national party. 

BJP Won Without Any Strong Opposition In Six Seats

A comprehensive study of the results shows that the BJP got a clear mandate in six seats without any significant opposition. In three constituencies the party won due to candidates’ influence over voters. 

For instance, in the Valpoi constituency, Health Minister Vishwajit Rane won with a 30% margin. In the Poriem seat, his wife Deviya Rane won the seat with a 48% margin, the highest across the state. The duo won due to the Rane family’s influence. 

Vishwajit Rane and his father Pratapsingh Rane (who retired from politics after completing 50 years in assembly) have been securing Valpoi and Poriem constituencies for Congress since 2002 and 1972 respectively. 

Vishwajit’s switch to BJP in 2017 ensured that the erstwhile Congress dominion is now with the ruling party. 

The BJP won certain seats by a significant margin.

Meanwhile, in the Porvorim constituency, two-time independent MLA Rohan Khaunte secured the seat for the third consecutive term, this time as a BJP nominee with a winning margin of 37%. For the last two terms, Khaunte was in opposition.  

Denying Tickets To Incumbent MLAs

In four constituencies where Congress had better prospects of winning the seat, the BJP denied tickets to its incumbent MLA and likely ticket aspirants, forcing them to rebel against the party and contest the seat as either independent candidates or from another party. 

These rebel candidates campaigned against BJP and penetrated the already exhausted Congress vote bank. As a result, it gave a better chance to the saffron party to win the seat with its loyal vote base sticking to the party while Congress votes split even further. 

This trend was evidently visible in Panaji, Canacona, Maem and Sanguem constituencies. 

For instance, in the Panaji constituency, the son of the late Manohar Parrikar, Utpal Parrikar, was denied the ticket by BJP, forcing him to contest the seat as an independent candidate. 

Although Manohar Parrikar held the Panaji seat since 1994, the BJP won the seat due to Parrikar’s influence and not for its ideology. As a result, it was highly anticipated that Congress had a better prospect of winning the seat. 

However, with Utpal Parrikar in the fray, the Congress vote share dropped significantly as Utpal received a high number of sympathy votes. Although BJPs Atanasio (Babush) Monserrate won the seat, it was a win-win situation for the saffron party, with Utpal hinting at supporting BJP if elected. 

A similar pattern was also observed in the Mayem constituency. Held by BJPs Praveen Zantye, the party decided to give the ticket to a new face denying Zantye the ticket. As a result, he contested from MGP. 

The constituency had a high level of anti-incumbency against the ruling party, with voters turning towards Congress’ alliance partner Goa Forward. Zantye pulled 14% of the votes, giving an easy victory to the BJP candidate with a winning margin of 11% votes. 

A further dent in Congress’ vote bank was made by AAP and RGP, who collectively took 24% of the votes. 

In the Canacona constituency, BJP denied tickets to its incumbent catholic MLA, Isidore Fernandes and its senior leader and former minister Vijay Pai Khot. Both rebelled against the party and announced their candidacy as independent contenders for the seat. 

As a result, the Catholic vote, which primarily stood with Congress, supported Isidore Fernandes. Although the BJP vote share took a dent with Khot taking nearly 17% of the votes, a further split in non-BJP votes between TMC, AAP and RGP, accounting for a total of 12% of votes, gave a comfortable win to BJP. 

Infighting Between The Opposition

A split in the opposition parties helped BJP win seats with a narrow margin.

In another four constituencies, the BJP won seats with a narrow margin of 1 to 3% votes difference. The reason: split in anti-BJP votes. For instance, in South Goa’s Navelim seat, the infight between Congress, AAP, TMC, RGP and NCP resulted in an unforeseen victory for the BJP for the first time. 

A catholic dominated constituency with nearly 15% Muslim voters, the party had never won this seat. While BJP got 5,168 (24%) votes, the rest pulled nearly 16,000 (73%) votes, with the TMC candidate emerging second with a difference of 430 votes (2%). 

With a lone Muslim candidate in the fray, NCP got 2,622 (12%) votes, which were primarily Congress and TMC voters. 

In Sanquelim, Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant was trailing most of the time but took the lead in the later stage of the counting and won the seat with a narrow margin of 666 (2.6%) votes against Congress. 

The Sanquelim constituency had 12 candidates in the fray. A significant share of the Congress vote was taken by RGP (3%), while seven independent candidates, allegedly planted by BJP to penetrate Congress vote, managed to take 350 (2%) votes. 

As a result, Dr Sawant got a narrow escape and won the polls. 

The Last Nail In Congress’ Coffin

In five BJP heavyweight seats, Congress was expected to create an upset for the ruling party due to the high level of anti-BJP sentiments amongst the voters. However, what looked like an insignificant vote share received by AAP, RGP and TMC resulted in a significant vote difference for Congress in defeating the BJP heavyweights. 

For instance, in the Dabolim constituency, six-time MLA Mauvin Godinho won the seat with mere 1,570 (8%) votes as against the 14% in the 2017 state elections. The Congress votes were pulled by AAP, RG and NCP, who managed to take 2,533 (13%), 1,129 (6%) and 1,037 (5%) votes in their ambit, respectively. 

Despite being in alliance with Congress in Maharashtra, NCPs involvement in the Dabolim constituency ensured Congress’ defeat, let alone AAP pulling a major chunk of anti-BJP votes. 

Congress had a similar fate in the Mapusa constituency. Held by Manohar Parrikar’s childhood friend Adv Francis D’souza since 2002, his son Joshua won the seat in by-polls in 2019 after the demise of Francis. 

Despite the BJP losing 2% of its vote share as compared to the by-polls, the anti-BJP vote split between TMC, RGP and AAP collectively took nearly 3,900 (17%) votes, leading to Congress’ defeat with 1,600 (7%) votes. 

It is no secret that the BJP have loyal cadre-based voters in every constituency whose commitment to the party remains unaltered. So the party only had to ensure that the anti-BJP votes did not cross the BJP’s predetermined vote share. 

The BJPs successful strategy of not letting anti-BJP votes consolidate to one party guaranteed them the win. While AAP and TMC were expected to create a dent in the Congress vote bank, the unanticipated footfall received by the Revolutionary Goans turned the equation against Congress’ favour. 

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