Eager to carve out a semblance of significance in Goa’s political area, especially with the chaos reigning in the main opposition party, the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party appears content to play the waiting game ahead of the 2022 state assembly polls.
The Sharad Pawar-led NCP currently has one legislator in the 40-member Goa legislative assembly, but the party has virtually little in the name of infrastructure and membership in the coastal state; a lacuna, which the party leadership plans to correct in the days leading up to elections.
In order to beef up its line-up of assembly poll candidates, the NCP appears to be eyeing several Catholic MLAs in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, many of whom were elected on a Congress ticket in the 2017 polls and from seats where the Catholics vote has more often than not determined the winner.
NCP’s eyes appear to be set on the lot of 10 MLAs, who quit the Congress en-masse to join the Bharatiya Janata Party soon after Chief Minister Pramod Sawant assumed charge after the death of former Chief Minister late Manohar Parrikar in 2019.
Eight of the 10 MLAs who quit the Congress are Catholic in religious orientation. Some of them have been elected to the assembly from constituencies which are Catholic strongholds, where the BJP has never won an assembly election in the past.
Last week, one of the 10 MLAs, Wilfred D’Sa, an MLA from Nuvem assembly constituency in South Goa, and now a BJP MLA, said that he would not be contesting the 2022 state assembly polls on a BJP ticket.
“I will not contest on a BJP ticket again in the forthcoming assembly elections… I have already said that I will not contest on the BJP symbol. The party knows. I know. The people know. I have told the people,” D’Sa told reporters on February 7.
Nuvem is one of the seven rural constituencies in the Catholic bastion of Salcete, which has been a traditional Congress bastion, with the Nationalist Congress Party also managing to eke out a rare victory over the last decade and more.
D’Sa is not the only sitting BJP from the Salcete region, who are insecure about going into the 2022 polls on a BJP ticket.
“There is no question of winning on a BJP ticket, because of the history of my constituency, which has never elected a BJP candidate in the past. There is also a lot of pressure from the Catholic voters for my having joined the BJP in 2019,” a sitting BJP MLA said.
This anxiety according to a senior NCP leader augurs well for the Pawar-led party.
“The minority voters are already upset that they joined the BJP and the Congress is reluctant to take them back. Realistically they may stand a chance with a new political party like the NCP backing them. And as far as our party is concerned, in these MLAs, we will be able to tap candidates who are election-ready,” a senior Nationalist Congress Party official said.
NCP supremo Sharad Pawar during a recent visit to Goa has already spelled out a need to cobble together a Congress-NCP alliance to take on the BJP in the upcoming polls.
The strategy to prop-up a list of possible BJP rebels, may help the NCP to create the necessary pressure on the Congress to get a better deal when negotiations between the two parties eventually begin.
Speaking to IANS general secretary of the Goa NCP Sanjay Barde said that the party high command would be taking a call on the possibility of taking in Congress rebels who joined the BJP in 2019 into the party. “That is up to the high command to decide,” Barde said.