Tuesday 21 May 2024

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Zilla Polls: Whither Congress?


After debacles in Bihar and Goa, the Congress simply cannot afford to continue burying its head in the sand like an ostrich and pretending – ‘Three Idiots’-style – that “aaall is well”

The Congress high command needs to quickly get out of the morass of electoral debacles it finds itself in


The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the Zilla Panchayat elections in Goa, winning 33 out of 49 seats. It bagged 14 of the 24 seats in the South Goa Zilla Panchayat (election to one seat was countermanded after the death of a Congress candidate) and 19 of the 25 seats in the North Goa Zilla Panchayat. Certain newspapers interpreted this – in their headlines – as the state’s electorate showing “trust in CM Pramod Sawant”.

The Zilla Panchayat is the least sought-after electoral office in Goa. It is a body that has little by way of finances, and even less in terms of decision-making power. Even Village Panchayat elections are fought with far more vigour and enthusiasm.

Besides, this election was held in ‘rural areas’ of the state. Unlike many of India’s bigger states that have massive rural populations, only about 37 per cent of Goa's population lives in rural areas. In North Goa, the rural population is about 40 per cent, as compared to around 35 per cent in South Goa.

Therefore, the Zilla Panchayat elections do not reflect the sentiment of the state as a whole. There is little doubt that this is a very significant victory for Mr Sawant in terms of his personal standing within his own fractious party. But to say that the Goan public as a whole has imposed its trust in him may stretch the limits of understanding the people’s mood.  

This election has delivered a very different kind of verdict for Goa’s principal opposition party, the Congress. It suffered a humiliating debacle, winning just four seats out of the 37 it contested – only one seat in North Goa and three in South Goa.

This is despite the fact that the Congress emerged as the largest single party in the 2017 assembly election. Afterwards, though, the late Manohar Parrikar pulled the rug out from beneath the party’s feet and formed the government with the support of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), the Goa Forward Party (GFP) and independents.

Notwithstanding, Goa emerged as one of the few states in which the Congress did better in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Francisco Sardinha won the South Goa Lok Sabha seat. Soon after the parliamentary polls, however, 10 of the 17 Congress MLAs defected to the BJP (three had resigned and joined the BJP earlier). The party has obviously failed to overcome this massive setback.

Even in the Catholic heartland of Salcete, the Congress failed to make political capital of the anti-coal agitation and the popular sentiment against three centrally-funded infrastructure projects in the wildlife sanctuaries on Goa’s borders. This does not mean that the BJP gained here. Despite the defection of 10 Congress MLAs into the BJP, independents backed by the party failed to win in Salcete. Here, the Congress won three seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) bagged one, the BJP took one, Independents won two seats and the Aam Admi Party (AAP) opened its account in the state, winning the Benaulim seat.

The Congress may argue that the opposition was divided; that the NCP and the MGP contested separately. But just 15 months away from the 2022 assembly elections, the decimation of the Congress in these elections should be a dire warning for the party’s high command that it needs to quickly get out of the morass it finds itself in. After debacles in Bihar and Goa, it simply cannot afford to continue burying its head in the sand like an ostrich and pretending – ‘Three Idiots’-style – that “aaall is well”.

It should also be a matter of concern for the Congress that no Hindu won on its ticket in these elections. That no Christian was elected on a BJP ticket should worry the ruling party too, but given the ongoing celebratory mood, that is unlikely. The MGP won three seats, but they were all in the pocket boroughs of the Dhavalikar brothers.

Probably the other significant development in this election was the AAP candidate Hanzel Fernandes, who won from Benaulim with a slender margin of 434 votes. This is the first electoral victory for the party outside its two core states of Delhi and Punjab.

Just 26 years old, Hanzel is a carpenter by profession. Locals feel his deep roots in the village helped him in these elections. It is significant to note that he was pitted against political heavyweights. Royla Fernandes – who left the AAP for the Congress ticket – was a former Sarpanch of Benaulim, while NCP candidate Menino Fernandes was the Deputy Sarpanch of the village. It bodes well for the AAP in the run-up to the assembly elections. The Congress, on the other hand, needs to reinvent itself.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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ekomeme |

Goans has accepted AAP as an alternative to Congress. Congress is still in a denial mode. Goans gave Congress more than 3 Decades to solve Goans Electricity, Water, Health, Roads, Environments, Home Delivery of Government Services and many other problems to solve. But instead of solving Goans problems they joined BJP and betrayed the Voters who voted Congress and not BJP. Congress will again betray their voters and hence Congress voters opted for AAP against Congress in recent ZP Election. AAP will emerge as an alternative to Congress & BJP in 2022 Assembly Election.

Jack De Goan |

Blogger's Profile


Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.


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