Nandkumar M Kamat
The horrifying and cruel, universally condemnable Colombo blasts dampened the spirit of Easter Sunday in Goa. The scenes may be carried by the voters in their mind on April 23 because no election in Goa in the past had been conducted in such a gloomy, insecure atmosphere. The majority Hindus in Goa have also been badly shaken because Sri Lanka is neither far off or alien place to them due to ancient maritime trade relations. The election campaign in Goa has ended on a sober note with more questions regarding the attitude of voters than any answers. With a weak, diffuse, unresponsive, self-righteous and confused leadership trying to exploit public sympathy after the death of former chief minister Manohar Parrikar nothing seems to go right for Goa BJP troubled by symbolic or halfhearted support of the allies.
Both BJP candidates are fighting to win the elections on their own merit but the booth wise arithmetic this time is very complex as compared to 2014. The poorly organised and aimless campaign of the Congress party has also not generated any enthusiasm and the party leaders are expecting a miracle in both Lok Sabha constituencies. Congress is also facing a credibility deficit in Mapusa and Shiroda. Congress may extract some advantage as a party which had been denied the chance to form the government despite having the largest number of MLAs. But generally, the support for BJP and Congress would be seen on the lines of new conquests against old conquests traditional divide.
Constituencies in old conquest talukas- Bardez, Tiswadi, Marmagoa and Salcete may show tilt in favour of the Congress candidates and those in rest eight talukas would show different voting preference. The ghastly blasts killing hundreds on Easter Sunday in churches in Colombo may create a wave of indignation, fear and insecurity among the minorities perplexed by the very purpose of such an act against the innocent Sri Lankan Christians. Considering the reverence Goans have for blessed saint Father Jose Vaz , son of Benaulim, Salcete and the patron saint of Sri Lankan Catholics the blasts and its aftermath may injure and deeply impact the psyche of god fearing Christians in Goa.
Sri Lanka is avowedly a Buddhist nation and Christians constitute less than eight percent of the population. There are no issues between Sinhalese and Tamil Christians and Sinhalese Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus. Compared to churches in a fortress city like Colombo, the Churches in Goa are more vulnerable requiring an immediate threat perception and security response. Political observers would keep their fingers crossed on the issue of voters turnout after the Colombo blasts.
Things are different in 2019 as compared to 2014 because there is a palpable heat wave and by noon the temperature on April 23 is likely to reach 36 degree Celsius compounded by high humidity forcing many electors to stay indoors. In 2014 Shripad Naik romped home due to a high voting percentage- 78. 95 and so too Narendra Sawaikar benefited by 75.27 percent voting. Normally assembly segments in new conquest talukas report high voting percentages.
During 2014, in north Goa with support of MGP and active campaigning by Manohar Parrikar, Shripad Naik had taken huge leads in Mandrem, Pernem, Bicholim, Tivim, Mapusa, Siolim, Saligao, Maem, Sanquelim and had a big boost in Priol where he had led by an unprecedented 13,000 votes. This time without Manohar Parrikar and MGP support it would be difficult for him in few constituencies but even with 75 percent voting he expects to improve his support base in all the assembly segments in Pernem, Bicholim and Sattari. Due to personal efforts of Vishwajit Rane he may get a record lead in Sattari and Bicholim. On the contrary Girish Chodankar is expected to do better than Ravi Naik in 2014 in Bardez and Tiswadi assembly segments. The equation has drastically changed in South Goa where veteran Francisco Sardinha doesn’t even have to campaign in certain constituencies because of his familiarity with voters. Voting less than 70 per cent in South Goa constituency would benefit BJP and anything near 80 percent or above may see it defeated.
BJP’s position has been weakened in Sanguem, Sanvordem, Shiroda, Ponda and Marcaim. First time MLA Pavaskar in Sanvordem who defected to BJP would not be able to give Sawaikar the crucial 12000 votes lead this time because MGP has a clear hold over this constituency. Due to MGP backing Sawaikar got 11000 votes lead in Markaim and it is unlikely that traditional supporters of Sudin Dhavalikar would vote for Sawaikar but nothing is final as many MGP supporters prefer NDA over UPA. The rift between sworn political rivals ex BJP MLA Sanguem Subhash and sitting independent MLA Prasad Gaonkar may impact Sawaikar.
Even without much campaigning Congress had polled 5356 votes in Sanguem in 2014 and with a familiar face like Sardinha expect to raise it to 8000. Voting above 78 to 80 percent in Vasco da Gama, Cortalim, Nuvem, Curtorim, Fatorda, Margao, Benaulim, Navelim, Cuncolim, Velim and Quepem may tilt the equation in favour of Congress as past booth wise trends indicate. Unfortunately Congress doesn’t have the machinery to ensure such heavy turnout in Marmagoa and Salcete whereas well trained booth committees of BJP would strive very hard to ensure high voting in Ponda, Siroda, Marcaim, Mormugao, Dabolim, Curchorem, Sanvordem, Sanguem and Canacona. Among these Curchorem and Canacona are likely to give a substantial edge to BJP. During 2014 from traditional Congress bastions Churchill Alemao took 11932 votes and AAP polled 11227 votes.
Independent Govind Gawde who polled 7105 votes is now with BJP and that may help BJP’s Sawaikar. Elvis Gomes of AAP is a candidate with very high merit but even during assembly election 2017 when he was being projected as future CM of Goa he couldn’t get more than 3437 votes and came fourth in the race in his native Cuncolim. As of April 21, Sopate of BJP is frontrunner in Mandrem, Dipak Dhavlikar of MGP is in neck to neck race with Subhash Shirodkar of BJP in Shiroda and Congress is gaining solidly in Mapusa.
It must be seen whether a heat wave on April 23 dampens the spirit of the voters in addition to gloom caused by Colombo blasts. By polls may see more than 85 percent turnout. A high voter turnout in old conquest talukas in both Lok Sabha constituencies may heavily impact BJP.