BJP isolated in Goa, but AITC-MGP alliance may have a rocky road ahead

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As the first contours of political alliance formations evolve in Goa ahead of the 2022 assembly polls, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party appears to find itself isolated.

Isolation may not be the worst peril faced by the party, as much as the fact that the only major political party which shares a similar Hindu conservative ideology with the BJP, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), appears to have rejected its overtures for a pre-poll tie-up.

In the highly volatile political ecosystem in Goa, the MGP and the BJP have both hugged as well as bared fangs at each other at various electoral outings over nearly three decades, with contrasting results.

The love-hate relationship between the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party over the last few decades needs to be examined in the context of the Shiv Sena and the BJP in neighbouring Maharashtra.

Founded in the 1960s, Shiv Sena is Maharashtra’s legacy political party, while the BJP is a relatively new entrant to the western Indian state’s political landscape.

When the two parties first aligned together in 1989, Shiv Sena was the alliance’s senior partner. Both parties were invested in Hindutva and had a common appeal for the Hindu conservative voters in the state.

When the two parties rode to power in 1995, the Shiv Sena had 73 MLAs, while the BJP had 65 MLAs.

With time, the BJP, which had slowly developed a pan India appeal, systematically managed to slowly stifle the growth of the Sena, while also expanding its base statewide. The BJP’s increasing footprint also led to a split in more recent times between the two parties, who were once considered natural allies in Maharashtra politics.

In Goa too, the BJP was the junior ally in its early coalition with the MGP in the 1994 assembly polls. Riding on the MGP’s stature, the BJP managed to open its account in the state assembly by winning four assembly seats in the polls, while the MGP won 10.

But once it had its foot in the assembly, the BJP through its leaders like the late Manohar Parrikar and Shripad Naik gradually managed to create enough traction in the ideologically similar (to the BJP) vote-bank of the MGP, to outdo the latter in the 1999 assembly polls. In those polls, the MGP won only four seats, while the BJP won 10.

While the BJP had both outgrown and outsmarted the MGP in the 1990s-2000 decade, the continued importance of the latter was lost on the former.

In the 2012 state assembly polls, the BJP managed to win a simple majority for the first time in Goa, largely on account of the ‘mahayuti’ (grand alliance) between the two parties.

The significance of the MGP to the BJP’s scheme of things could not have been lost in the 2017 polls, when the BJP crumbled to a mere 13 seats, after it took on the party led by the Dhavalikar brothers, Sudin and Deepak.

The most significant import of the MGP’s decision to ally with the All India Trinamool Congress (a formal seat sharing arrangement has not been worked out yet) is a possible split in the Hindu vote bank, which could severely impact the BJP’s chances of winning the election.

It is not that the alliance between the MGP and the AITC is a match made in heaven.

There are fundamental differences in the ethos of the two parties. One for example is the open support of Hindu right wing politics practices by the MGP, whose leaders have overtly expressed support to the controversial Sanatan Sanstha, which is headquartered in Goa and several of whose members are linked to the deaths of rationalists like Gauri Lankesh, MM Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar, etc.

The other proposed alliance between the Congress and the Goa Forward party, appears to be still suffering from birth pangs. Goa Forward won three out of the four seats it contested in the 2017 assembly polls on an anti-BJP plank, only to join the BJP after the elections. The party was sacked from power in 2019. While state Congress president Girish Chodankar has expressed reluctance to join forces with Goa Forward, which currently appears to have lost its “punch”, Goa Forward president Vijai Sardesai and Congress secretary in-charge of Goa Dinesh Gundu Rao are currently in the process of conducting a laborious ‘caesarean’ procedure to give birth to the alliance.

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