By: Devahuti Sarkar

Goan Legislative Assembly elections have been termed as the “politics of shifting sand” because of its history of numerous defections, changing alliances, and last-minute uncertainties among voters. Despite being a small state with merely 40 constituencies, it has many political stalwarts, ex-Chief Ministers and their family members exerting considerable influence in and around their constituencies. On top of that, Goa is also not devoid of identity politics. Hindu subcastes like the Saraswat Brahmins and the Bhandaris have emerged as electorally important while the Christian community has always held major sway over certain constituencies, particularly the Salcete region.

While Goa Legislative Assembly elections are fraught with uncertainties due to these myriad factors, the Lokniti CSDS opinion polls indicate that the most deciding factor for voting decisions is the profile of the local candidate. Powerful names and veteran leaders tend to have greater sway over voting patterns than party allegiance or developmental concerns. Keeping this in mind, there are certain constituencies that we should look out for on the day of the results.

How are safe constituencies looking after defections?

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates have been winning in the following constituencies consistently for the last two terms on its own- Mapusa, Calangute, Aldona, Panaji, Maem, Sanquelim, Mormugao, Vasco da gama, Cortalim, and Curchorem. Similarly, the Indian National Congress (INC) has been winning in the following constituencies – Taleigo, Santa Cruz, Poriem, Valpoi, Curtorim, Margao, and Quepem. However, the mass defection in 2019 and again before the 2022 elections have tipped the scales. Let us look at some of the affected constituencies.

Calangute’s two-time winning candidate Michael Lobo has been a great loss for the BJP. His influences span across not only Calangute but also in Mapusa where his wife, Sancha Delilah Lobo is the sarpanch of Parra village. She is also contesting from the Siolim constituency on an INC ticket. Michael Lobo also has his reach in Candolim, especially among social activists and women’s groups. He also exercises some control over the Catholic community in Goa.

constituency has its fair share of upheavals since 2017. After the death of Manohar Parrikar, it was Babush Monserrate who defected from the INC along with 10 other MLAs and won from Panaji on a BJP ticket. In the hope of replicating that victory, he has again been nominated from Panaji. However, this meant denying Utpal Parrikar, son of Manohar Parrikar, the nomination. He was offered nomination from other constituencies, but he was adamant on running from Panaji to continue his father’s legacy. This move by the BJP has not only alienated the Saraswat Brahmin community but also garnered the perception that the party is moving away from Manohar Parrikar’s Catholic outreach- ‘Mission Salcete’.

Vasco da Gama’s
two-time winner Carlos Almeida, another Catholic candidate, is running from the same constituency on an INC ticket. Other contenders are Krishna Viswambhar Salkar (BJP) and Saiful Khan (All India Trinamool Congress – AITC).

Cortalim’s two-time winner, Alina Saldanha who succeeded her late husband Mantanhy Saldanha, is running on an AAP ticket this time.

Aldona, Sanquelim, Mormugao and Curchorem are the four constituencies where the same BJP candidates are running for the elections this time. Maem is also a safe constituency for the BJP as they have won twice with different candidates.

Taleigo’s winning INC candidate Jennifer Monserrate is now running on a BJP ticket. Santa Cruz has been dominated by INC for the last two terms with different candidates. However, both Babush Monserrate and Antonio Fernandes are now running as members of BJP.

Poriem has been another problematic constituency for INC. Pratapsingh Rane, INC winner of last two elections, has withdrawn from the election and his daughter-in-law has been nominated as the BJP candidate. AAP candidate Vishwajit Krishnarao Rane, who has been losing by a small margin as a BJP candidate might get a good vote share and even win the seat with Pratapsingh Rane out of the race.

In Valpoi, Vishwajit Pratapsingh Rane is now running for the BJP and Satyavijay Naik (previously in BJP) is running for AAP. INC only stands to lose out in this constituency.

In Curtorim, Aleixo Lourenco has been snubbed for Moreno Rebello because the former had defected to AITC. He wished to come back to the INC, but the latter has been strict with defectors this time. Thus, Lourenco is now running as an independent candidate.

In Quepem, two-time INC winner Chandrakant Kavlekar is now running for the BJP. However, Altone D’Costa, current INC candidate has been working on the ground for some time to retain this INC constituency and is expected to give stiff competition to Kavlekar.

Thus, the only remaining constituency which can be considered to be in the INC’s pocket is Margao.

The BJP can be considered to be safe in five constituencies with a high chance of winning in three more. Meanwhile, the INC is only left with one safe constituency with a good chance of winning in three more. However, these predictions only hold true if we study the last two elections, keeping newer factors constant. Added to these defections, the AAP has been making inroads since their failure in the last elections. Their party claims to have sent their workers door to door for covid assistance. Considering the general trend of Goans being wary of outsiders, the AITC has now replaced the AAP as the new outsider.

There is a good possibility that remaining constituencies may counter the effect of defections to maintain the status quo this time. However, if pre-poll alliances remain even after the results and newer parties manage to fragment votes even further, the BJP might struggle to form the government on its own. Due to its penchant for powerful local ministers, Goa has been stuck in a whirlpool of revolving candidates hopping from one party to another, amounting to negligible qualitative change. While a regime change looks unlikely in Goa, the real question about the state’s future is whether the state will manage to rise above its self-sabotaging voting behaviour this time.

Devahuti Sarkar is Election Studies Intern at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.

Featured Image Courtesy: Zee News

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