The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may be known as a Hindu party, but about half its new legislature party in Goa comprises Catholics.
BJP’s strategy to field eight Catholic candidates in Goa seems to have worked well for it. Although it won only 13 seats in the new 40-member Assembly, most of its Catholic candidates won their seats and one, Arthur D’Silva, came second in the Curtolim constituency. The party has earned a lot of flak for fielding no Muslims in Uttar Pradesh and in several other states in the recent past. However, it adopted a different strategy in Goa with regard to minorities.
In fact, the proportion of Catholics among the BJP candidates during the election in Goa (the party did not field candidates in every constituency) almost matched the 25 percent proportion of Catholics in the state’s population.
Although this proportion of the population has steadily declined over most of the past century, from more than half to a quarter, Catholics still comprise a vocal and socially influential community.
The concentration of Hindus is much larger in the heavily forested northern and eastern parts of the state. Only one constituency among the 40 in the state is reserved for scheduled tribes.
It would be particularly interesting if the party was now to choose a Catholic as its House leader. Francis D’Souza, who retained the Mapusa seat, is a frontrunner. D’Souza has been the deputy chief minister in the cabinets led by both Manohar Parrikar and Laxmikant Parsekar over the past five years.
For a sitting MLA, D’Souza won with a very convincing margin — 10,957 votes against the 4,129 votes of his nearest rival — from the pro-Hindu Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party. He evidently did not face much anti-incumbency antagonism in his largely urban constituency.
D’Souza certainly thinks he ought to lead the party in the House. He had publicly voiced his anger and opposition when the low-key Parsekar was promoted to the chief minister’s post when Parrikar moved to New Delhi in late 2014. D’Souza was abroad at the time.
BJP national president Amit Shah announced after the votes were counted on Saturday that the party’s Central Parliamentary Board would decide who would lead the legislature parties in the five states for which polls have just been completed.
Suspense over vacancy
Parsekar, the House leader over the past couple of years, was defeated from the Mandrem constituency in north Goa. For Parsekar, who had held the seat for four terms, this is particularly humiliating since he contested as the sitting chief minister.
Shah had announced during the election campaign that Parrikar would run the party’s state unit after the elections — whether from New Delhi or from the state capital, Panaji.
Parrikar might be despatched to the state if the party feels confident that he can cobble together a House majority and so form the next government despite having won only 13 seats in the 40-member House.
This might cost it politically and morally, however, for the results can be interpreted as a rejection of the incumbent ruling party — a withdrawal of the mandate to rule.
The Congress would expect to be invited to form the next government on the basis of having the largest group in the new House. It might hope for the support of some of the three Independents.
Churchill Alemao of the Nationalist Congress Party is likely to support the BJP, which supported his candidature in the Benaulim constituency. Alemao was the chief minister when he was part of the Congress, and the NCP had contested the 2012 elections in alliance with the Congress.
On the other hand, the Congress might hope for support from the Goa Forward party, which has won three seats. The Congress had apparently supported some of the Goa Forward candidates — such as Vinoda Palienkar in the Siolim constituency in north Goa.
Updated Date: Mar 12, 2017 15:40 PM