Goa-based Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) could emerge as kingmakers in the scattered scenario of the ongoing election for a new Goa Assembly. Polling is due next Saturday.
Neither of these two parties is likely to win many seats. However, if either of them emerges as even the fourth-largest group in the new house — but with four or five MLAs — the party could become the key to government-formation. In fact, at least the MGP has already projected a chief ministerial candidate.
Twin factors work in favour of these two parties. One, many Goans expect no party to get a majority. Two, the three parties — the BJP, the Congress, and the Aam Aadmi Party — that could potentially emerge with larger numbers of seats cannot join each other in a coalition. Their antagonism at the national level runs too deep to allow that.
Both parties depend on the strength of particular candidates rather than their respective party agendas. Indeed, few know what the NCP’s agenda is any more. But some of its candidates have a strong base. Some MGP candidates too have long-established networks of support in their constituencies.
The ironic fact is that both might even end up allying with larger parties that would appear to be ideologically opposed. The MGP was a part of the current BJP-led coalition, and has adopted Hindutva-oriented stances. However, it left the coalition a month before the election, and there have in some phases been signals that it might ally with the Congress.
The MGP also appears to be close to the Goa Suraksha Manch, which former RSS strongman Subhash Velingkar formed in October after differences with the BJP led to a rupture with both the party and the RSS.
On the other hand, there have been signals that, despite its origins as a party meant to uphold Congress values, the NCP could go with the BJP. The Aam Aadmi Party’s chief ministerial nominee makes no bones about it: 'NCP is a BJP plant,’ he says. The Padma Vibhushan award to party supremo Sharad Pawar have encouraged NCP activists in Goa to think such an alliance is likely.
Within the state, the NCP has become associated with former Congress chief minister Churchill Alemao. His reputation took a beating while he was in power, and even more so when he fielded three other members of his family during the last election. People in the area got together to ensure that all four were defeated.
Of course, all these calculations are based on the presumption that the fractured nature of public reactions to the various parties’ campaigns — most of which have in any case been pretty low-key. Those calculations could go wrong, however, if the very large number of candidates in the fray end up pushing the same party to victory in more constituencies than most observers currently expect. After all, the BJP emerged with 21 of the Assembly’s 40 seats last time, with just four percent more votes than the Congress, which won only 9 seats.
As things stand, the BJP could possibly slip through to a majority despite a distinct lack of public enthusiasm. For, although people are largely dissatisfied, the anti-incumbency sentiment is nowhere near as intense as it was against the Congress in 2012 — mainly over the issue of corruption.
The other possibility, upon which AAP backers bank, is that a large number of 'silent’ voters are willing to try out the party as an alternative to the two major parties, both of which have disappointed. To be sure, the very few people in Goa who appear to be positively excited about any of the parties (rather than candidates) in the fray appear to be AAP backers.
There is another factor in these elections, though — one that could queer the pitch for the MGP and the NCP: A number of relatively new local parties have emerged — parties such as Goa Forward. They represent Goan identity more than any of the other parties, including the MGP. For although the MGP was the original party of Goa, it is jaded compared with the newer parties.
More important, it has always stood for a Marathi identity — as the 'Maharashtrawadi' part of its name suggests. In fact, the MGP, which had won the first elections after Goa became a part of India, lost its vigour after a 1967 referendum on whether Goa should become a part of Maharashtra was defeated.
Many Goans celebrated the golden jubilee of that year since 16 January, the date on which the vote took place in '67. Cultural and academic events were organised around the anniversary, and even a new song composed. So, if the MGP — or the NCP — win enough seats to dictate terms for a coalition, it will owe to the popularity of particular candidates.
Updated Date: Jan 30, 2017 18:20 PM