In Goa, it’s more about candidates than political parties, a sharp contrast from elections in other parts of the country.
In a large number of constituencies, including Margao, Panaji, Poriem, Dabolim, Benaulim, Navelim and Cortalim, the candidates are not dependent on the party but have their own clout.
“People in these constituencies vote for a particular candidate and are not bothered about the party,” said Dr Yatindra Vaidya, a surgeon with a political background. This is the reason why candidates don’t hesitate in “switching sides” to suit their interests and most of this “hopping” takes place just before the elections.
Political observers have often described Goa as “a paradise of party hoppers”.
The Congress boasts of many such “winnable” candidates such as CM Digambar Kamat, Pratapsinh Rane, Ravi Naik, Atanasio (Babush) Monserrate and Alemao brothers — Churchill and Joaquim — besides Mauvin Godinho who has till now not changed the party.
In contrast, the BJP has few such names and banks heavily on the charisma of its state unit chief Manohar Parrikar to regain power. Goa Vikas Party’s Mickey Pacheco, Sudin Dhavlikar and his brother Deepak Dhavlikar of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party are some other “winnable” candidates.
“Some of these leaders make no bones about it…they openly claim they are bigger than their party,” Prashant Vales, an advertising professional.
Acceptance and people connect is more important than a party’s policies and promises, a Congress leader said.
A large number of these “larger than party” leaders in the Congress have managed to get tickets for their kin despite reservations from senior state leaders.
This has also given the BJP a handle to attack the Congress since its campaign on illegal mining and corruption had failed to take off. The BJP has made the “family raj” in the Goa Congress a main talking point, running a massive advertisement campaign in local newspapers that says “Five families, 12 candidates, 40 constituencies. Goa does not belong to these five families”.
But the issue, political observers claim, is not going to have any major impact in the polls.
The only worrying factor for state Congress leaders is that the “family raj” does not “sneak into” the next government. “We hope this stops at the ticket distribution level only,” said another Congress leader.