Mamata Banerjee lands in Goa on a 3-day outreach. 3 temple stops on her sked

TMC boss Mamata Banerjee will reach out to fishermen and civil society members at separate interactions scheduled with them, and later visit three temples.
TMC chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee arrived in Goa on Thursday on a three-day visit to the state that will go to polls in early 2022 (ANI)
TMC chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee arrived in Goa on Thursday on a three-day visit to the state that will go to polls in early 2022 (ANI)
Published on Oct 28, 2021 09:44 PM IST
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ByGerard de Souza

PANAJI: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee landed in Goa on a three-day trip, her first as chief minister, on a visit aimed at bolstering the Trinamool Congress’ profile in the state’s political landscape ahead of the state elections expected early next year. Banerjee’s visit is also aimed at signalling to the electorate that her party will make an all-out attempt to carve out space for itself in the state’s politics.

Banerjee spent most of her time in Goa meeting party leaders on Thursday. Advance teams of the TMC comprising leader of the Rajya Sabha Derek O’Brien, MPs Saugata Roy, Mahua Moitra and the political consultancy group, Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) and its founder Prashant Kishor were already in the state.

On Friday, she will reach out to fishermen and civil society members at separate interactions scheduled with them. Banerjee is also slated to visit three temples: Mangueshi Temple at Priol, the Mahalsa Narayani Temple at Mardol and the Tapobhoomi Temple at Cundaim in central Goa’s Ponda, an attempt to blur some of the cultural lines that are seen to divide Goa’s political space.

The Congress and like-minded parties have traditionally wielded influence in parts of Goa referred to as the old conquests -- Bardez, Tiswadi, Mormugao and Salcete talukas -- territories that were first captured by the Portuguese. Since these are coastal areas and are comparatively more densely populated, these areas, which account for a larger share of Goa’s 40 constituencies, also have a greater share of minority Catholic voters.

The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which largely expanded in Goa at the expense of the MGP, have traditionally been strong in areas known as new conquests -- these were captured by the Portuguese only in the 1700s. According to historians, these areas, unlike the old Conquistas, remained predominantly Hindu because by then the Portuguese rulers had no appetite for conversions.

To be sure, the BJP’s move to induct 13 Congressmen over the course of the last four and a half years has disturbed some of these patterns and people in constituencies traditionally represented by the Congress are split between the sitting MLA who has joined the BJP, the Congress who identified replacements of their MLAs who switched sides, and the Aam Aadmi Party which has so far been largely restricted to minority-dominated areas.

With the Trinamool Congress mostly recruiting leaders from the Congress, the TMC’s strength appears to lie in areas that were traditionally Congress bastions. However, the party has also brought on board former members of the MGP and secured the support of an independent MLA from BJP and MGP strongholds in an effort to indicate that it intended to get support from both sides of the traditional political divide.

It is in this context that Banerjee and her team has more than once over the last few days underlined that the Congress did not respond to its overtures to defeat the BJP.

It is not clear how the TMC aggressive moves in Goa will impact the Congress performance. Banerjee’s visit will overlap with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s trip who is expected to reach the coastal state on Saturday.

TMC leaders, who launched the party campaign with a sharp attack on the Pramod Sawant government this week, said the BJP was rattled about Banerjee’s visit.

“Why hasn’t the BJP responded to Goa TMC’s nine-point charge sheet yet? Why aren’t they giving any answers on unemployment, poor healthcare and infrastructure? Clearly, they are rattled because Goa TMC is a formidable force. This is nothing but their classic diversionary tactic ahead of Didi’s visit,” TMC leader Lavoo Mamledar said, referring to his party’s allegations that ruling Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) workers defaced billboards of Mamata Bannerjee in parts of the state.

Chief minister Sawant dismissed the hype around Banerjee’s visit.

“Everyone is free to contest elections from anywhere they want… Anybody can come here but that won’t affect us,” Sawant said on Banerjee’s Goa visit, according to news agency ANI.

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Monday, November 29, 2021