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Congress in Goa

Power is a lot of fun for those who have it.

But voters are not amused.

Barring an incredibly unexpected surprise, sales let’s not hold our breath for a Congress victory this election season in Goa. That in itself is something of a surprise, viagra 60mg given the BJP’s eminently flawed national candidate and the spectacle the AAP has made of itself since grabbing the national spotlight.

The bottom line? In the minds of many of us, Congress is too corrupt, too caught up in petty politics, too associated with old ways and too power hungry to deserve our vote. On the other hand, with opponents like the BJP and the AAP, sometimes these folks can seem like the only adults in the room, moderate and sober-minded.

Much unlike the BJP, the Congress in Goa is a conglomerate of loosely bound local chieftains, each of whom thinks of himself as larger than the ideal, larger than the party.

This, one can argue, has been both a boon and a bane, but has made the Congress what it is today.

The Congress leaders of today, be they former legislators, ministers or chief ministers, began their political careers either as independent candidates running on the plank of their individual performance or with local political outfits that today have ceased to exist, ‘merged’ with some larger party, or perhaps exist only nominally.

What better example do we have than the Congress’ two candidates – Ravi Naik and Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenço? While the former began his political career with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, the latter began his with the Save Goa Front, a regional outfit launched by Churchill Alemão, now the party’s most famous deserter who has joined the Trinamool Congress.

The story of the two candidates is like that of every Congress leader worth his salt today. The modus operandi is simple and is a strategy that has been tried and tested with much success in coastal areas of North Goa and Salcete in the South.

An individual decides to run for office. Since he cannot be given a ticket by either of the major political parties, who already have established candidates, he will contest as an independent, on a ticket of a regional outfit or float his own. On account of being a new face, showing promise, he will defeat the incumbent Congress candidate and earn the title “giant killer”. Once the circle of five years passes and the next elections come around, if he hasn’t joined the Congress already he will be invited to and be given the Congress ticket, on account of his popularity. The incumbent who he had defeated earlier will either be placated with a party post or will fade into oblivion.

It is not surprising then that the Grand Old Party finds itself rankled by internal squabbling among its local chieftains, each of whom believes that his or her personality, and not the party he represents, will hold sway over his constituents.

“It’s a blessing for the Congress that the BJP’s projecting Narendra Modi, the face of the fascist communal agenda of the party to be its Prime Ministerial candidate,” said Cedric da Costa, an independent candidate who unsuccessfully contested the Margão seat against the then incumbent Chief Minister Digambar Kamat.

In the Catholic dominated South Goa Parliamentary constituency, da Costa said Congress is banking on people’s fear of the BJP, its Hindu nationalism and the spectre of Modi as prime minister. They’re hoping the issue of secularism will trump that of corruption, he said.

Working against that strategy, of course, is the fact that the BJP has been quite successful in wooing Goa’s Catholic community – including roping in Catholics as BJP candidates. However, it’s also clear the BJP-Catholic honeymoon is largely over.

Da Costa is disillusioned that among the faces at the Congress campaigns is that of Digambar Kamat, who he says lorded over the Rs 35,000 crore mining scam in the state.

“[In] Kamat’s Congress, corruption was so rampant that it drove Goans including the clergy towards the BJP and now after two years of BJP rule, they seem to have seen enough of Manohar Parrikar,” da Costa surmised.

True to da Costa’s analysis, the BJP has had to go on the defensive in its state campaign. Rather than promoting Modi, the party leaders have been speaking of the achievements of Manohar Parrikar as well as promises of what he will achieve. This after the Catholic Church did not mince words when asking the faithful to exercise their franchise in favour of ‘secular candidates.’ No prizes for guessing who they were suggesting not to vote for.

Parrikar’s own admission that the people should vote for the BJP “to strengthen the hand of the state government” pointedly leaves out a call to support Modi, portraying a decidedly local angle instead.

While in the South the Modi factor may work in favour of the Congress, not necessarily so in the North where Catholics are in a minority and the Congress candidate fails to inspire confidence after having come under heavy criticism during his tenure as Home Minister in the previous state government.

While the South Congress candidate Reginaldo can claim a clean image, not so Ravi, whose name has been dragged in unfavourably in relation to the police-politician-drug-peddler-nexus mentioned in the case of slain British teenager Scarlett Keeling.

“BJP may just about pull through in the North on account of their committed voters,” said Francis Pais, a restaurateur in North Goa.

Unlike the Congress, the BJP in Goa is larger than individual party leaders. Being a cadre-based party, its workers do not keep shifting alliances based on which local leader is where.

However, the fact that the Congress’ Ravi Naik could split average Hindu voters, the core base of the BJP, is leaving political pundits guessing.

Disillusionment with the local BJP government will weigh in Ravi’s favour, said Yatish Naik, a local campaigner.

“Corruption levels in the BJP government are at the same levels that they were during the Congress government and there is no action being taken against any of the ministers involved in it,” Naik said.

“The people are feeling betrayed and they will show it this elections,” he contended.

Fortunately for the Congress, it does not face internal squabbling in the North and all of the Congress leaders have rallied by their candidate.

A question however remains. Who will a voter disillusioned with the BJP and uninspired by a tainted Congress candidate vote for in the North? Could be an AAP candidate with questionable credentials. But don’t count on it.