Sunday 27 November 2022

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Will probable defectors learn from the 2022 election?

 

Even after swearing oaths before the Almighty Gods of all the three religions as well as by placing their hands on Constitution of India, hectic activity is still on in the Congress camp to defect and join the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The 11-member Congress needs eight members (two third) to avoid disqualification, failing which they have to resign and face bye-election to get re-elected on the BJP tickets. But they have signed affidavits that if they resign, they will not re-contest any Assembly election during the whole term.

What will happen in such a situation will  ultimately be decided by the probable defectors, led by mighty Congress leaders like ex-CM Digambar Kamat and Leader of the Opposition Michael Lobo,  who are facing disqualification petitions filed by their own party, even before they have defected.

In this background, here is the analysis of the three defections and the 15 Congress and MGP MLAs who had defected after electing the 2017 Assembly poll.  What was their fate in 2022? Will our politicians learn from the experience of the immediate past? It is being analysed in a revised version of the bestseller book Ajeeb Goa’s Gajab Politics by Sandesh Prabhudesai. The revised edition will be out by next month.

These are the excerpts from one chapter on the 2022 election:

Click on the book to order online

 Defection costs dearly?

Goa by now has become synonymous with defections. The Anti-Defection Act had to be amended numerous times because of various kinds of horse-trading in the tiny state since 1990. All kinds of experiments to hoodwink the act and seize the power were ‘invented’ in Goa’s Defection Laboratory. As a result, for the BJP to seize the crown in spite of having no number after the 2017 election and maintain ‘stability’ thereafter, it had to engineer defections right from day one. Goa witnessed defections thrice in the Congress and the last one was a mass defection of 10 out of 15 members, to fulfil the two-third requirement of the law. Similarly, two out of the three MGP members also defected. Altogether 15 legislators out of 40 defected while three among them had to resign and face bye-elections: Vishwajit Rane, Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte; all from the Congress.

Is it worth being part of defections if you have a long term political ambition? Does it abort your political career when you run behind short-term monetary gains and influential positions in the government? Do parties respect the defectors and give them tickets in the election? How does the Goan voter react to the jumping frogs of Goa? Is it the end of their political career? Is it a smooth sailing for them or a real struggle to win the poll thereafter? Well, to know  this, we need to see what happened to these 15 lawmakers in the 2022 poll. 

First of all, the Congress broke its tradition of readmitting the defectors on the basis of their ‘winnability’ and coming back to power even after a series of defections in the party. Goa Congress President Girish Chodankar remained firm not only on not readmitting a single defector but also threatened that the Congress will not join hands with any party that would give tickets to these defectors. This was happening for the first time after the defection era began in 1990, due to which many doors were shut down for the defectors this time. Since the NCP gave the ticket to Filipe Neri Rodrigues, the Congress even kept away their traditional ally. Since the BJP also did not give them tickets, Isidore Fernandes, Wilfred D’Sa and Dipak Pauskar had to contest as Independents. However, the Congress conveniently admitted two BJP legislators and  their colleagues: Carlos Almeida from Vasco and Michael Lobo from Calangute along with his wife Delialah (Siolim) and Kedar Naik (Saligao). Except for Almeida, all three won the election. 

FATE OF 15 DEFECTORS IN 2022 ASSEMBLY ELECTION

DEFECTOR

CONTESTED

2017 VOTES %

2022 VOTES %

DIFFERENCE

RESULT

Wilfred DSa

IND

47

14

33

Lost

Dipak Pauskar

IND

58

25

33

Lost

Babu Azgaonkar

BJP

58

26

32

Lost

Filip Neri Rodrigues

NCP

45

15

30

Lost

Dayanand Sopte

BJP

60

33

27

Lost

Isidore Fernandes

IND

39

21

18

Lost

Francis Silveira

BJP

49

33

16

Lost

Subhash Shirodkar

BJP

46

33

13

Won

Babush Monserrate

BJP

52

39

13

Won

Babu Kavalekar

BJP

51

40

11

Lost

Nilkanth Halarnkar

BJP

50

39

11

Won

Jennifer Monserrate

BJP

52

43

9

Won

Vishwajit Rane

BJP

54

54

0

Won

Tony Fernandes

BJP

28

28

0

Lost

Clafacio Dias

BJP

29

29

0

Lost

 Babu Azgaonkar & Dipak Pauskar defected from the MGP, the rest were from the Congress. 

If we analyse the table, out of 15 defectors, only five could win. The winning rate was only one third. None of them could poll the same number of votes they polled before defection. Getting more support from more people was next to impossible. Even the five winners had to struggle very hard to retain their seats. Six among the defectors were the ministers holding ‘lucrative’ portfolios and Isidore Fernandes was the deputy speaker. He did not even get the party ticket. As an independent from Canacona, the 70-year old three-time MLA since 1999 polled 18 per cent less votes, the lowest in his 28-year long political career. Fernandes was also defeated in a bye-election in 2005, when he had defected for the second time within one year. 

Babu Kavalekar, hailing from the tribal community and was the Leader of the Opposition, was crowned as the post of deputy chief minister besides ‘gifting’ him the most influential portfolio of Town and Country Planning that deals with land conversions; Goa’s prime political business! But the four-time former Congress MLA from Quepem could not retain his seat in 2022. His vote share came down by 11 per cent in spite of pouring money in a desperate attempt to buy the votes.  

Worse than that was the case of another deputy chief minister, former MGP legislator Babu Azgaonkar. He had won from the SC-reserved constituency of Pernem in North Goa four  times, in 1999 as the Congress, 2002 as the BJP, 2007 again as the Congress and 2017 as the MGP MLA. Party did not matter to him. Still the BJP bluntly refused to field him from Pernem on party ticket. Instead, he  was given an option to move from North to South Goa and contest from Margao, a general constituency and his hometown, against Congress leader Digambar Kamat, who was one of the seven guaranteed politicians who could win the election. Against Azgaonkar, Kamat won the seat for the seventh consecutive time from 1994, by polling this time the highest 60 per cent votes. Azgaonkar polled hardly 26 per cent, the lowest he polled in his political career of 23 long years. 

Dipak Pauskar was elected for the first time in 2017 on the MGP ticket from Sanvordem and jumped out to become the PWD minister, once again another lucrative portfolio. Forget the BJP, no party offered him a ticket. He fought the election as an independent and lost it miserably. He polled  33 per cent less votes; from 58 per cent to 25 per cent! More pitiable than him was the condition of his another cabinet colleague, Filip Neri Rodrigues from Velim. Known to be a professional defector, the four-time legislator had to beg for a ticket from the NCP. The 59-year old civil engineer could poll hardly 15 per cent votes and was thrown down to the fifth position. He also lost the deposit. 

The only defector ministers who could pull through were Vishwajit Rane in Valpoi and Jennifer Monserrate in Taleigao. But it was not a cakewalk. There was a buzz that the price in Taleigao had gone up to Rs 10,000 per vote. The influential minister holding revenue portfolio, once again related to land holdings, was down by nine per cent. 

Vishwajeet Rane could also manage to maintain his percentage of 54, but it was certainly much lesser than the 72 per cent he had polled in the bye-election after he quit the Congress to join the BJP within a few days. Besides this, the biggest threat he faced was the 24 per cent  votes polled by 37-year old Manoj Parab, the leader of Revolutionary Goans, with the support of the young brigade.

Out of the remaining eight defector legislators, only three could win on BJP tickets. In a bye-election held in May 2019 after Manohar Parrikar’s sad demise, Babush Monserrate as a Congressman this time had defeated Parrikar’s successor Sidharth Kuncalineker (former BJP MLA when Parrikar was the defence minister) by polling close to 9000 votes. But within two years, voters of the capital city of Panaji turned against him. From 8748, he came down to 6787, nearly 2000 less. Manohar Parrikar’s son and rebel BJP candidate Utpal polled over 6000 votes while traditional Congress votes, around 3000, were polled by Elvis Gomes without being a local resident but from the South. Babush could retain his seat with a miserable margin of 716. 

It was also not a cakewalk for Subhash Shirodkar, who had bounced back in 2017 with a huge victory (11,000 votes) after two consecutive defeats in 2007 and 2012 by his former personal secretary Mahadev Naik on BJP ticket. The six-time Congress MLA since 1984 defected within a year, won the bye-election in 2019 with a slander margin of 76 votes and contested the 2022 poll on the BJP  ticket once again. Though he won with a comfortable margin of over 2000, his popularity shows a diminishing graph: over 11,000 in 2017, over 10,000 in the bye-election to 8300 in 2022. 

His defector colleague Dayanand Sopte from Mandrem (they had defected together from the Congress in 2018) literally came down to half the percentage: 60 per cent in 2017 to 32 per cent in 2022, nearly 7000 less in spite of more voters (91%) coming out this time. Former chief minister and three-time BJP legislator Laxmikant Parsekar revolted for denying ticket and polled 20 per cent votes, mostly from the BJP camp. That made MGP’s young real estate dealer Jit Arolkar (35% votes) victorious from Mandrem. 

It was a foregone conclusion that four more Christian MLAs, who had defected from the Congress, would not win from their Christian-dominated constituencies from the Old Conquests after joining the Hindutva party. Most humiliating defeat among them was of Wilfred D’Sa alias Babashan from Nuvem, which has an 87 per cent Christian population. To make him win, the BJP fielded one namesake candidate, Datta Borkar, who polled not even three per cent votes. In spite of this, Babashan could not even save his deposit. With hardly 14 per cent votes, he was 7000 down, in a third position with Arvind D’Costa of the Revolutionary Goans overscoring him. Former Congress MLA Aleixo Sequeira won the seat by polling 40 per cent  votes.

In St Andre, the RGP went a step ahead and defeated Francis Silveira, another defector flying BJP’s Lotus. Most of his former competitors also polled less once again, like Ramarao Wagh was down from 3000 (BJP) to 1000 (AAP) and Jagdish Bhobe was down from 2400 (MGP) to 1200 (AITC). But Silveira was over 5000 less than in 2017. Congress candidate Anthony Fernandes also could not poll more than 2600 votes. Though with a slander margin of 76 votes, Viresh Borkar opened RGP’s account in the Goa Assembly in its first attempt by polling nearly 5400 votes. 

Both Tony Fernandes from St Cruz and Clefacio Dias from Cuncolim could retain their 2017 percentage, 28 and 29 respectively. But it was not at all enough to win the election. Against 6202 votes Tony had polled in 2017, 5497 were polled by BJP’s Hemant Golatkar and 5187 by Rodolph Fernandes of the Congress. In 2022, Tony was the BJP candidate, but could not get all the BJP votes (6377 this time). In fact he lost the Congress votes to Rudolph, who rose to over 8800 votes and entered the Assembly. In spite of using the Bhandari card, AAP’s CM-face Amit Palekar could not cross 4000 votes (18%).

Clefacio Dias had won the seat in a four-cornered fight in 2017, by defeating two-time Cuncolim MLA and a mighty politician, Joaquim Alemao. But in 2022, Joaquim’s 37-year old son Yuri overscored four contestants against him, polled 43 per  cent votes and entered the House. Dias remained stuck at 29 per cent despite having BJP’s Lotus with him. That too when the BJP rebel Sudesh Bhise was the most ineffective candidate. He polled hardly one per cent votes. 

The anti-defector sentiment was so strong in the 2022 poll that all the Congress candidates, in an attempt of playing to the electorate gallery, vowed a pledge before Hindu, Christian and Muslim deities not to defect if they are elected. Also, they took the same oath at a public function by placing their hands on the Constitution of India. In addition, they swore affidavits that in case they resign as the MLA any time during the whole term, they will not contest any bye-election.  

Finally, 11 Congressmen (including one woman) got elected.  Wheels of defection politics started moving once again as soon as Dr Pramod Sawant took over. Come July and a plan to get eight Congress legislators (two third) to the treasury benches was hatched. But the Congress leadership moved into action and dared to file disqualification petitions against the prime alleged conspirators: former chief minister Digambar Kamat as well as the new Leader of the Opposition Michael Lobo. On the other hand, voters pounced upon the probable defectors very harshly, public protests were held and three first-time MLAs backed out at the last minute. With six MLAs deciding not to split under any circumstances, the ‘conspirators’ could not gather two-third numbers. Attempts were still on till the book went for print, but the young legislators were seen openly speaking that they don’t want to ruin their political career like their predecessors! 

To order the book "Ajeeb Goas Gajab Politics", kindly click here


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