PANJIM: In a week’s time voters will be casting their valuable votes and the fate of six candidates contesting the South Goa Lok Sabha elections will be sealed.
While all the candidates are confident of winning the election, the major contest is between the candidates of the two national parties -- the Congress and the BJP. Congress’ former MP Francisco Sardinha is challenging the incumbent, BJP’s Narendra Sawaikar with Aam Aadmi Party’s State convener Elvis Gomes trying his luck as well.
Mormugao taluka has been divided into four Assembly constituencies and currently all are represented by the ruling BJP MLAs. Mormugao is represented by Urban Development Minister Milind Naik, Vasco by KTCL Chairman Carlos Almeida, Dabolim by Panchayats Minister Mauvin Godinho and Cortalim by Alina Saldanha.
In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Mormugao taluka played a vital role in Sawaikar’s win with 39067 votes being secured from the four constituencies and leading in all four constituencies. Sawaikar had won the South Goa seat by a margin of 32,330 votes and polled a total of 1,98,776 votes against Reginaldo’s 1,66,446 votes.
Congress’ women wing the Mahila Congress has not been able to make inroads pan-Goa and Mormugao taluka is a clear example of the failure of the Congress party on this front, whereas the BJP Mahila Mandal has penetrated into every ward and booth with Self Help Groups (SHGs).
A young woman from Mormugao Constituency residing in Headland Sada opines that the BJP’s hold in the area can be gauged by the number of women who are part of SHGs and attend party functions. “When they want to organise a meeting of the women, the leaders of SHG are informed and in no time you will see hundreds of women gather,” she said.
Stating that the SHGs function to empower these women, she said, “They learn new things, exchange ideas, use their craft and earn too. It’s a sense of being empowered and in return they are willing to give that extra time and energy to the leaders back. In this case, it is also their vote that these women cast for the party which has empowered them.”
Same is the case in Dabolim Constituency where women through the SHGs have been trained in various courses including embroidery, tailoring, sewing, beautician, cookery, etc and over a period of time during the last 2-3 years have set up their own small home enterprises.
In the age of internet, perception has become a key factor for youth voters. A man in his late twenties said, “Social media is abuzz with so much content. But what youth look for is strength and Modi is obviously more powerful than pappu (Rahul Gandhi).”
When confronted that all of social media content is not true and can be misleading, he said that the image and perception is very important and Congress President has not come out of that image (of being a prince) as he has not been a mass leader yet.
While it was youth who had led the AAP campaign in 2014 as well as 2017, the party’s youth brigade has diminished in the Mormugao taluka constituencies.
One always thinks that elections are fought on the basis of issues, agenda, manifesto and poll promises. However, the Lok Sabha elections for the people of Mormugao taluka and the four constituencies are not a matter of the issues which got highlighted during the attack on the government in the run up to the elections during the last one year.
Mormugao taluka has seen during the last two years coal pollution, ban on mining activities and the issues of the fishermen taking centre stage and agitations and protests organised around these issues. However, for voters these issues are largely local issues and the agenda for Parliament is different.
When questioned about various agitations, a middle aged man in Vasco said, “I don’t see coal pollution being an issue on the basis of which people will vote. It is the party and the leadership which can take the nation ahead.”
When asked which amongst the candidates is more suitable to take up the issues, the man responded “It’s neither about Narendra Sawaikar nor about Francisco Sardinha, it is about Modi. And can Rahul compete him, is the question.”
The biggest challenge for either parties is to convert the votes of the communities, religious or social, into votes. It is no rocket science to expect the majority religious community to side with the BJP which has proclaimed and promised to be saviour of the majority. But minority community too is not consolidated.
With Elvis Gomes being a candidate from the minority community, minority votes are expected to be divided in Mormugao taluka constituencies. In Cansaulim, a trader said, “We have preferred our representative to be from minority. But this time Congress and AAP both have Catholic candidates. The elite are with Elvis while the middle class and lower may vote for Sardinha.”
However, the community holding the key to a win in South Goa could be Banjara Samaj. A senior office bearer of the Samaj association informed that there are approximately around 70,000 voters from the community in South Goa.
“Banjara Samaj votes as a community and we are aware that our votes can change the tide for a candidate in this election. Even if 70 percent of our voting population votes and votes to a single candidate or party across the Constituency, then the probability of the candidate winning is high,” he stated.
Forty percent of the Banjara Samaj votes are concentrated in Mormugao taluka in the four constituencies. The capacity to swing the win is very much with them and despite facing opposition and termed as outsiders, the Banjara Samaj knows they are a major factor in the ensuing South Goa Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP ran a campaign ‘Mera Booth Sabse Majbooth’ and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed booth level leaders through video conferencing in the month of February earlier this year.
In all the four Assembly constituencies the booth level workers hold an important position and the Congress seems to have lost the opportunity to score points with the party virtually nonexistent in Cortalim and Dabolim constituencies. In Mormugao and Vasco constituencies, a couple of party leaders who are part of the Mormugao Municipal Council (MMC) have been trying their best to make a difference but have not been able to galvanise the workers beyond a point.
Similar is the fate of the AAP which had been trying to champion the cause of fishermen and also stand against coal pollution. However the silent booth worker of the BJP strengthens the backbone of the party reaching out to those who conceive the party as theirs in the first round and then to those who are on the fence and awaiting to be approached.