Herald: Shocking! Party hoppers get rewarded in Goa

Shocking! Party hoppers get rewarded in Goa

21 Oct 2018 05:48am IST

Report by
Avinash Tavares

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21 Oct 2018 05:48am IST

Report by
Avinash Tavares

Leave a comment

What do the constituencies of Dabolim, Cumbarjua, Pernem, Fatorda, Valpoi, Saligao, Siolim, Shiroda, Mandrem, Priol, Benaulim and Sanguem have in common? They all have sitting MLAs who switched sides either before or after the Vidhan Sabha Elections in 2017 in order to be a part of the Government. But what’s shocking is that for a State that is one of the most educated in the Country and in which almost everyone has a political opinion, these defectors are rewarded by their voters with a huge margin in their constituency. Avinash Tavares takes a closer look at this trend

Confedant defectors – Candidates who switch improve their vote share

The present trend of defection began before the 2017 election with Mauvin Goudinho who joined the BJP followed by Babu Ajgaonkar and Pandurang Madkaikar who joined MGP and BJP respectively. As expected, all the three candidates won.  After the election, Vishvajit Rane resigned from the Congress, contested the election on a BJP ticket and won.

Expect for Mauvin Goudinho, who lost around 200 votes since 2012, the other three candidates had got 30% more votes than the previous election. The success rate of these defectors is impressive enough to give others the confidence to switch sides and reap the benefits of being a part of the government.

So, could this winning streak be one of the reasons Dayanand Sopte and Subhash Shirodkar are confident that they will win the by polls even after they betrayed their former party, their workers and their voters?

The math is simple, they have around 3000 of their own votes. The BJP has around 4000 votes in each of these constituencies. The will buy another 2000 – 3000 votes to reach the magic figure of 10000. They may field another candidate to divide the votes of the opposition. This formula works every time. Of course, money plays a critical role in swinging the influential vote banks particularly the migrant vote bank onto a particular side. 

But what does this say about the quality of Goa’s voters? Do qualities like trust, ethics, morals, commitments, loyalty, sincerity etc hold any value when Goans go to vote? Or have these qualities been replaced with money, the promise of government jobs and protecting and regularising the illegalities?

Even if voters accept leaders who lie to the press saying that they are going on a business trip or a reception but instead end up in Delhi and into another party, where is the line of decency beyond which Goa’s will finally say, enough is enough.

Should we take the statements of our leaders seriously anymore?

Does winning a bypoll election wash away the commitments made during the previous election? Dayanand Sopte said that even if he is made the CM he won't join BJP.  Vishwajit Rane had recorded a video where he slammed the BJP supporting casinos and bringing all the “ills” into Goa. “We should not allow BJP to sell Goa to the outsiders. Where is this Parivartan? Where is this Aache din?” he had questioned

During the elections, Subhash Shirodkar had expressed his loyalty on Facebook with this comment, “Overwhelming response from the people all over #Shiroda Constituency. People have once again come together with true spirit to support the ethical governance of #Congress_Party by putting an end to filthy and inhuman politics. #ProgressWithCongress”. On Friday, he claimed that Congress cannot resolve the mining issue.

The alliance partners such as Goa Forward Party, MGP and the independents too had made several allegations against the BJP. Vijai Sardesai during the 2017 election campaign had said that “BJP has sold Goa. BJP has put Goa in debt trap”. He said that BJP is a curse on Goa. Jayesh Salgaonkar called BJP filth and promised that he would never support the BJP.

The video clips of the alliance partners have come back to haunt them on social media. However, the negative publicity has done little to compel the alliance partners to pressurise the ruling BJP.

Consider this, the alliance of BJP, MGP, GFP, NCP and three independents has been functioning for the last one year without a Common Minimum Program. Without a CMP, whose plan is the government following, how does the public know where the government is headed and whether they are achieving the milestones?

Non-Existent Second line 

Leadership

The biggest criticism political parties face when leaders defect is that parties do not create a second line of leadership. The Congress party has been leader centric where the MLA creates and control the block committees in their constituency. This is primarily because the party is cash starved. The MLAs are the only source of funds for the block. There is very little scope for any second line leader to rise in such a situation

However, MLAs from almost all parties are adverse towards creating a second line of leadership in the party. But the defection of the second line leaders has haunted the Congress in the past. The former Congress MLA Shyam  Satardekar won the 2007 elections with 10,628 votes. In 2012 he lost with 5507 to his apprentice Nilesh Cabral who garnered 14299 votes. Nilesh Cabral gained almost 6000 votes more than  Ghanashyam Dessai, the previous BJP candidate. Back in 2012, Subhash Shirdkar lost to his apprentice and PA Mahadev Naik by just 300 votes.

 On one hand, the existence of a second line leadership obstructs an MLA from defecting while on the other hand, the second line leader himself is a threat if he defects and joins the other party. With such a catch-22 situation,  MLAs of a ruling party are constantly on the vigil to squash any second line leader in the party.

The Congress is paying a heavy price for the lack of second line leadership. Would  Sopte and Shirodkar dream of leaving the Congress if there was a strong default second line leader? Probably not. Congress is now stuck in a vicious circle of importing winnable candidates who have no loyalty towards the party nor the support of the block committee workers. These winnable candidates are one flight away from switching sides and the block cadre is stuck in a limbo with no opportunity for any loyalist to rise and grow into formidable candidate.

Following the footsteps of the Congress party MLAs, the BJP MLAs too have begun alienating their party cadre and replacing their block leaders with loyalists who will not pose any threat in the future.  The question that arises is what happens to the ideology of the Party.

Parties without Ideology

 Interestingly, the voter of Goa wants their leaders to provide free quality education, jobs, cheap fuel, quality health care and other social benefits yet they vote for capitalist politicians.

BJP is considered a right-wing conservative party with the affinity towards capitalism whereas Congress is largely a centre party whose policies are largely socialist. However, in Goa, the line between socialism and capitalism are blurred due to the presence of capitalist MLAs in the Congress and socialist MLAs in the BJP.

While the Congress party promoted government-run institutes all across India since 2007 the Government has not built a single engineering college in Goa. During that time Subhash Shirodkar started their own private colleges that offer courses at exorbitant fees. Interestingly, no one raised any objection to this contradiction in the Congress Party.

The fact is MLAs like Subhash are right-wing politicians who prefer capitalism over socialism. The fact that he has joined BJP shouldn’t come as a surprise since BJP is an ideological match for him. But then why did Subhash prefer Congress over the BJP all these years? The answer is simple, Goan leaders chose their party based on the popularity wave and anti-incumbency factor.

 The new breed of young leaders like Vijai Sardesai and Rohan Kaunte are also are capitalist right-wing politicians.  They prefer to drive expensive cars like Jaguar, invest in real estate and have business interests. Their political ideology is thus more suited alongside the BJP rather than the Congress party.

Another tell-tale sign of capitalist MLAs is the way the promote farming. Instead of promoting farming societies that are well equipped, most of the MLAs have invested in their own farm equipment which they give to local farmers.  

These examples highlight the ideological identity crises in Goan politics which affect policymaking. When was the last time the Government started a new school or college in Goa? Why has the number of projects approved by the IPB become a measure of Goa’s economic growth instead of actual GDP and job growth figures?  

 Defectors Get Richer, Powerful and garner a larger vote share.

Since the last election alone, 90000 voters who voted against the BJP and for a candidate who garnered support by criticising the BJP, were betrayed virtually overnight. In spite of this betrayal, our elected representatives were rewarded plump portfolios and they get allegedly richer by the Crores. The four candidates who resigned from the Congress and won on a BJP ticket had they vote share increased. Therefore there is absolutely no deterrent for defection.

The Anti Defection law that is in existence is outdated. The Aam Aadmi Party and some social activists are demanding that the Anti-defection law is strengthened by penalising any MLA who resigns with a ban of 5 or more years and that they must compensate the government for the by-election. They claim that this will discourage horse trading.  

While such a law will indeed have a positive impact, the fact is till the Goan voter does not mature and hold our elected representatives accountable, such politicians will always find ways to bypass the law and abuse the people mandate.  
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