The voting process has ended, and we now await the results. There will be a new government in New Delhi – whether it be a different regime from the current or not will be known later – but will the results also ring in changes in Goa?
That’s the question that has been debated over the last few days in the State, as along with the results of the two Lok Sabha seats, there will also be the declaration of winners of by-elections in four constituencies. That’s ten per cent of the strength of the Legislative Assembly, and has the possibility of shifting the balance of power in the State.
The biggest poll promise of all made during the campaign for the Capital city was by the Congress candidate Atanasio Monserrate who said that on May 24 there will be a Congress government in the State. He made that statement more than once during his campaign, and he even got it endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar, who was sharing the dais with the Congress candidate as the campaign petered to an end. Pointing out to the conspicuous absence of the allies during the campaign, Monserrate said they would be with the Congress once the votes are counted on May 23 and the results declared. It led to a quick rebuttal from Chief Minister Pramod Sawant who said that the allies are strongly with the government. Yes, they are for now, but in the fluid Goan political situation, anything can happen.
For Congress to form a government the results of the by-elections will have to go their way. Congress and BJP are currently at 14 MLAs each in the 40-member House, reduced to 36. The future of the current BJP-led government is going to depend on the results of the by-elections to the four constituencies. It won’t suffice if the party wins just one additional constituency. Any one of the two parties, winning at least two of the four constituencies gets settled into the driver’s seat. A third constituency will make it unquestionably the winner. All four and there won’t be any instability for the rest of the term that will go till April 2022. But is it possible for any of the parties to achieve this feat? A difficult task.
Congress in the past week has developed an aggressive political stance. It is displaying a hunger for power that was not apparent two years ago when it won 17 seats in the State Legislative Assembly, and yet wasn’t able to convert that victory into a government. There’s a feeling that the party is sniffing that same prize that eluded it in March 2017, when it was rightfully theirs, but still remained unattainable. But for that, not only would the results of the polls have to go their way, the party would have to act fast and that is something the Congress is not known for. Whether it has the fire within it to convert a by-election result into a government could possibly be known later this week.
But, by-elections have in the past given Congress the edge. Remember 2005? In January that year four BJP MLAs resigned and brought down the government. A Congress government was installed, but President’s Rule was soon imposed and after the by-elections to the four constituencies, Congress returned to power. Elections to four constiuencies have taken place and the result will be declared on May 23. Going by past experience, the party in power has the edge in a by-election. But this has been no ordinary by-elections. Two of the constituencies went to the by-polls due to deaths of the MLAs, and two because the MLAs decided that they wanted to change their parties. Will the defectors be re-elected and rewarded for changing colours midway through the term?
Goa is in for some interesting times politically in the coming days. Whichever way the results may go, there will be adjustments to be made, if not of the major kind, then at least of the minor variety. This has attained the nature of a general election, and speculation is not ceasing. It will all depend not on who is first past the post, but who wrests the initiative after the candidates have corssed the post. That will make the difference between sitting in the opposition and sitting on the treasury benches.