The BJP, which has been in power for five years in Goa, is hoping for a split in opposition votes to bring it back to power. The costal state is for the first time seeing a multi-cornered fight between main rivals BJP and Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and a coalition of an RSS-splinter group, BJPand Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP).
The BJP is hopeful of returning to power, despite crucial issues working against it this time. Breakup with MGP, disenchantment among Christians, absence of Manohar Parrikar as chief minister, a faction of RSS working against the BJP and a rejuvenated Congress fighting polls without any anti-incumbency sentiments, is likely to prove costly for the Laxmikant Parsekar-led government.
In 2012, BJP polled about 35% votes and won 21 out of 28 seats it contested for the 40-member assembly. Ally Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party bagged three seats out of the seven they contested. “We will do better this time,” claims Nitin Gadakri, who is BJP’s in-charge for Goa.
BJP strategists argue that the current government is not as unpopular as the Congress government was in 2012. The party believes that it has tried to balance out the Christian factor by fielding eight candidates from the community. “An internal assessment by the party showed it got only 15% of Christian votes,” a BJP leader said.
BJP’s belief about winning Goa is also based on the premise that AAP will split opposition votes, particularly those of Christians who have traditionally voted for the Congress. AAP’s chief minister candidate Elvis Gomes is a Christian.
But, the break up with the MGP is dampening BJP’s plans. The party has teamed up with rebel RSS leader Subhash Velingkar and Shiv Sena to make inroads into the Marathi-Hindu communities.
The BJP has also firing up speculation about Parrikar’s possible return to the state. “He is our trump card, who will make us win,” a BJP leader involved in Goa claimed.
Meanwhile, Congress’ strength lies in about a dozen veterans who have cultivated their constituencies. It won only nine out of 33 seats in 2012, but polled 31% votes.
Its leaders remain first choice for the church and the party is aiming to make some big upsets this election.
The party has fielded candidates in 36 seats, leaving four for Goa Forward and United Goan Party. It is backing Atanasio Monserratte, a favourite of the church, in Panaji that was held by Parrikar. BJP’s Sidharth Kuncalienker who won the byelection in 2015 is seen as a dark horse for the chief minister post if the party forms government.