Politics indeed makes strange bedfellows. The electorates in Goa experienced this recently, soon after the results of the Assembly elections in this smallest state in the county were declared. The voters had then voted the BJP out of power, reducing the ruling party’s tally from 21 to 13, and elected the Congress with 17, as the single largest party in the 40-member House. The poll verdict clearly indicated that the people in Goa had totally ruled out the Aam Aadmi Party, which had initially appeared as a major contender for power and also the Goa Suraksha Manch, the political splinter group of the local Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Both these parties failed to win even a single seat in the Goa assembly.
But even before the total results of the Assembly polls were announced, the BJP leadership in New Delhi made it clear that it will form the government in Goa, notwithstanding the drubbings it had received in the elections. The party leadership achieved this near impossible task with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar returning as the state chief minister and later, he also managed to win the floor test in the House.
After having achieved this feat of forming the government and winning the number game, the chief minister has, on August 23, contested the by-election from Panaji Assembly constituency. Incidentally, he was elected for five consecutive terms from this seat, from 1994 to 2012. Panaji Assembly constituency has also faced four elections in a short span of last four-and-a-half years, due to Parrikar relinquishing the seat to go to Delhi to be the defence minister and recently returning to Panaji reoccupy the same post.
Goa Forward Party leader Vijai Sardessai had faced strong flak from various quarters when he, along with two other party MLAs, joined Parrikar’s cabinet.
After returning to Goa, Parrikar has managed to win over the most vocal critics of his party and made all of them ministers in his cabinet. This included three members of the Goa Forward Party, two members of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, and two independents. Congress MLA Vishwajit Rane, son of Congress veteran Pratapsinh Rane, who had remained absent at Parrikar’s trust motion has now joined the BJP and is contesting the by-election in Volpoi. His candidature is challenged by Congress party’s Roy Naik, son of another former chief minister Ravi Naik.
The results of the by-elections in Panaji and Volpoi will be declared on Monday, August 28. These by-elections were keenly contested and their outcome is being eagerly awaited. Both, Chief Minister Parrikar and Vishwajit Rane, are seeking re-election in their home turfs, where they have never tasted defeat. Besides, even the BJP’s opponents admit that the poll verdicts are not likely to be shocking. Nonetheless, the two bypolls are in a way a symbolic referendum on what has transpired in Goa post-assembly poll results. This was made amply clear when Parrikar launched a door-to-door campaign for his bypoll in the state capital. The margin of votes polled by the victorious candidates will indicate whether the electorates endorse the dramatic political developments which have taken place in the state in the recent past.