AAP ready to consider any post-poll arrangement in case of hung Assembly, says AAP Goa chief Rahul Mhambre
According to opinion polls, Goa might witness a hung Assembly with BJP having a majority of the seats followed by the AAP and Congress.
One of the prime travel destinations of the country, the coastal state of Goa, will go for voting on 14 February 2022. There are 40 legislative Assembly constituencies in the state. States with such a limited number of seats generally do not become the grand talking points in Indian politics but in the case of Goa, it is different.
This election in Goa is much-hyped this time as there is a growing anti-incumbency against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress party has been gradually weakening with defections, and new entrants like Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) have come up with new promises. Meanwhile, the AAP on Wednesday announced advocate turn politician Amit Palekar as their chief ministerial candidate.
The AAP believes that they are not new entrants in the state politics of Goa because the party fought in the last legislative election. However, they failed to garner support.
In an exclusive interview with Firstpost, Rahul Mhambre, the AAP Goa Convenor lays down the party's game plan to conquer the coastal state.
'Advocate Amit Palekar will be next CM of Goa'
AAP Goa convenor Mhambre said, "Firstly the Aam Aadmi Party promised that the chief ministerial candidate will be from the Bhandari community and the party has kept its promise. Secondly, Amit Palekar is a very well-known lawyer from Goa and has a clean image."
He highlighted that AAP represents a different form of politics. When the party was formed, all the leaders were from different backgrounds, most from outside politics. Amit Palekar is also a newcomer in the field of politics, but just as citizens of Delhi approved AAP’s leadership, the citizens of Goa will do so too.
Mhambre told Firstpost, "For the AAP and the voters of the AAP, the name or face of any candidate doesn’t matter. What matters is the goodwill of doing honest politics. People will vote for the AAP and Amit Palekar will lead the campaign. He will be the next chief minister of Goa. The citizens of Goa will vote for the politics of development."
Caste and religion pitch by AAP
After Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party supremo, Arvind Kejriwal retained his power for the third time in Delhi in 2020, the party decided its mega expansion plan. This time around, the party is fighting elections in Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
Although the AAP is known to take an alternate Hindutva line, its decision to make a caste-based pitch has not been visible. The party has already announced that the chief minister face of AAP will be from the Bhandari community and the deputy chief minister will be a Catholic Christian.
According to several reports, out of 11,00,00 voters in the state of Goa around 3,50,000 voters belong to the Bhandari Samaj community, which is around 30 percent of the total voter base. Bhandari Samaj is included in the list of OBCs in Goa and Maharashtra.
Rahul Mhambre added, “ The party is fighting this election based on the Kejriwal model of development. We do not believe in caste or religion-based politics. In Goa, we have taken this decision because both the BJP and Congress party have betrayed the Bhandari Samaj. We are giving them their due recognition.”
Mhambre also explains that the development agenda of the AAP is all-inclusive and there is no discrimination. “The BJP and Congress have always denied decision-making positions to the Bhandari Samaaj or Catholics. AAP is fighting for Goans, therefore, we want to recognise the contribution of every section," he says.
Goa also has a Christian voter base of around 26 per cent. In some of the constituencies, this percentage is as high as 80 per cent. Eventually, it becomes clear that if both the Bhandari's and Christians back a party — then over 50 per cent voter base becomes secured.
No pre-poll alliance but BJP is a key rival to AAP
Goa politics has been witnessing several alliance talks. After TMC entered the scene, there was speculation that it will form an alliance with the Goa Forward Party (GFP), but finally the GFP sealed an alliance with Congress.
Meanwhile, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) has allied with the TMC. NCP chief Sharad Pawar recently said that his party, Shiva Sena Congress and the TMC are in talks over a possible alliance. However, AAP has maintained its distance from any alliance talks.
“It is not true that the Aam Aadmi Party never wanted to form an alliance. The question of aligning with the Congress party never arose because this party has no relevance and has betrayed the people of Goa. The majority of their MLAs have joined the BJP or have defected to other political parties. Before the election was announced, the MGP chief came to meet Arvind Kejriwal. However, we could not build a consensus over seat-sharing. They have now formed an alliance with the TMC," added Mhambre.
He also says that according to the recent opinion polls it has become clear that the AAP has a fair chance to win by itself. "The party has been working on the ground for the past several years. Today the TMC is creating a media hype, but in reality, they have no existence. Still, the TMC is trying to show that they are leading the game by extending an invitation to form an alliance. Why should we consider any political party with zero ground presence?”
However, according to opinion polls, Goa might witness a hung Assembly with BJP having a majority of the seats followed by the AAP and Congress. Responding to the question of what would be AAP's strategy if such a case arises, the AAP convenor told Firstpost, "The Aam Aadmi Party is very clear that we can win this election by ourselves. But if the situation occurs then we will take any strategic decision of the post-poll alliance to keep BJP out of power.”
The Times Now opinion poll which the AAP Goa convenor referred to predicted, "BJP expected to win around 17-21 Assembly seats, AAP projected to bag around 8-11 segments, Congress is expected to perform badly and is likely to get 4 to 6 seats."
AAP's stand on politics of poaching
Defection and the politics of poaching have become synonymous with Goan politics. Several political leaders from the Congress party, GFP and NCP have joined the TMC and many BJP leaders have also defected to the Congress party.
Recently Kejriwal in Punjab said that his party will not take leaders from the Congress party. However, in Goa, BJP MLA Alina Saldana joined the AAP as grassroots level defections increase
Mhambre said, “Our party is of the opinion that 'poaching politics' is also a form of corrupt politics. We do not want to be a part of such politics. The only leader and MLA who has joined the AAP from the BJP is Alina Saldanha. And we have welcomed her not because of her BJP identity but because of her glorious track record of working for the Goans.”
What are the key promises?
AAP will be fighting this election based on the example of the Delhi model of governance. The party has also promised employment, free water and free electricity till 300 units.
“Today every household of Goa is aware of the Kejriwal model of governance. Unemployment is a key issue in the state and our government will focus on this issue. We will also work on developing the healthcare and the education sectors as we did in Delhi. We have also promised 300 units of free electricity for the citizens of Goa.” Mhambre added.
He noted that corruption is a major issue in Goa and the AAP will fight against this corruption. “We have also promised that after we come to power, mining projects that had been halted will start within three months as this sector is one of the party's key focus areas,” he added.
The author is an independent journalist based in Kolkata and a former policy research fellow at Delhi Assembly Research Center. He tweets as @sayantan_gh.
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