Wednesday 26 September 2018

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Politics | Lok Sabha '98

Performance made the prime issue to fight polls

 

Should the best Parliamentarian be judged based on his performance in the House or actual work in the constituency is the main issue in Goa, around which the Lok Sabha elections are being contested here for the two seats.

The ruling Congress party here has taken convenient stance in both the constituencies, in order to woo its voters and win over both the seats - Panaji and Mormugao - lost in the ’96 polls.

To attack union law minister Ramakant Khalap, Congress candidate Ravi Naik, the former chief minister, is flaying his non-performance in the constituency. Former minister Francisco Sardinha, the Mormugao candidate, however criticises Churchill Alemao’s lack of education to be the skilled Parliamentarian.

Both Khalap and Alemao, belonging to two different regional outfits, however have parted away and are bent upon defeating each other. The BJP, by filing better candidates than in the past, has also overcome its non-entity impression.

The issues are many to pose before the voters, like writing off its union territory loan of Rs 400 crore, whether to make Goa a free port, eco-friendly industries and tourism and infrastructural development. But it is limited to the manifesto, while performance of the MP is the prime issue.

More in trouble however is Khalap in Panaji (North Goa), as all the three opponents are his former colleagues in the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, eating into the minister’s traditional vote bank.

The Congress candidate is a Bhandari, Alemao having Babuso Gaonkar, the Gawda tribal and BJP’s Pandurang Raut belongs to Khalap’s Maratha community. The MGP relies upon all these three communities to counter the Congress.

Flaying them as turncoats, Khalap is also stressing upon their lack of oratory skills and experience as the Parliamentarian. All three of them had joined the Congress while two of them recently joined their respective parties to contest elections.

Though Congress normally gets most of the Catholic votes, Naik is not preferred by most of them. In fact deputy chief minister Wilfred de Souza, the rebel Congress leader, has taken an open stand against his party candidate.

Both the camps belonging to Khalap and Alemao today claim that de Souza is working for them while even a normal observer is puzzled, not knowing whom the rebel leader is working for. Khalap however appears weak, not having both de Souza and Alemao with him, like in ’96.

The BJP also sounds much stronger in MGP areas this time due to its "people’s candidate" and the BJP wave, whereas Alemao has also made a dent into MGP strongholds, besides Catholic-dominated Congress bastions, shaking up Khalap’s confidence.

Whatever may be the reason, but the four lakh-strong North Goa constituency has never elected the same MP for the second consecutive time. Despite North Goa getting the cabinet berth for the first time, Khalap may not succeed in changing the history if Alemao’s candidate polls more MGP votes.

Comparatively, Alemao himself appears quite comfortable in the South, though Congress candidate Sardinha is more accepted than former union minister Eduardo Faleiro, whom Alemao did not allow in ’96 to enter the sixth term.

But he would not be able to maintain his margin of 25,000 votes, admit Alemao’s close aides, as Sardinha is capable enough to win over the traditional Congress votes of the Catholic community this time. Alemao, last time, had secured maximum votes in the Catholic-dominated areas.

But the Congress is also threatened by BJP candidate Ramakant Angle, who is quite popular in the South due his generosity in giving donations to clubs and educational institutes. More than Alemao, the Congress has a fear of losing votes to the BJP.

Alemao’s prospects had in fact brightened when the MGP fielded a weak candidate, Padmanabh Amonkar, as the MGP youth automatically got drifted towards more dashing leader and Goa’s strongman.

Realising its weakness, the MGP leaders however are now campaigning among its cadres, requesting them to vote for the Congress, if not the MGP. But how much the last-minute attempts would accrue results is a question MGP leaders are asking to themselves.

While performance is the public issue used for mud-slinging, most of the parties here are seen involved in calculating community votes and taking help of disgruntled elements in the opponent’s camps.

Principles are overshadowed with opportunism, in the name of political game while Goans are taken for a royal ride in the name of democracy.






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