The thunder of all the bombs dropped by the IAF on Balakot may not politically echo in the BJP’s favour in Goa where it appears to be caught between a rock, a hard place and a granite slab ahead of the Lok Sabha elections and three Assembly by-polls – as far as cornering Goa’s Hindu conservative vote bank is concerned.
The encumbering rock is symbolized by former Goa RSS chief Subhash Velingkar, whose Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) has announced it intends to contest both the general elections as well as by-elections.
The hard place could represent the tight corner in which the BJP finds itself in, with its ally Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) also throwing its hat into the by-poll contest.
And the granite wall is the dour rebellion of former Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, whose arch foe Dayanand Sopte has been identified by the BJP as its candidate from Mandrem Assembly seat, which incidentally is Parsekar’s home turf.
The natural appeal of both the GSM and the MGP cuts across the Hindu vote bank – which accounts for 66 per cent of the population – and is key to the success of the BJP, which is obviously hamstrung by ailing Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s inability to lead from the front.
Both parties have espoused the Hindu cause in their politics, including a desire to see India emerge as a Hindu Nation.
While the MGP, which has had a itchy political equation with the BJP ever since the coalition government was hastily patched up in 2017, has already announced its intention to contest all three by-elections, the Manch, going by the statements of Velingkar, is well on its way to contesting both the by-polls and the Lok Sabha battle.
“Our party workers are demanding that I contest the Lok Sabha seat. We have already announced candidates for the Mandrem and Shiroda by-polls. The candidate for the third seat (Mapusa) will be announced soon,” Velingkar told IANS.
The Manch fared poorly in the 2017 assembly elections, given the fact that Velingkar had then refrained from plunging into active politics.
But with Velingkar, considered in BJP circles as the political guru of top state BJP leaders like Parrikar, Central AYUSH Minister Shripad Naik and former Chief Minister Parsekar among others, now leading from the front, the presence of the political outfit could lead to further erosion of core Hindu voters from the BJP kitty.
Despite being pressurised by the BJP high command, Parsekar has maintained that the party’s internal poll surveys were rigged against him and he has vowed to defeat Sopte.
“I am not seeking a ticket for myself, but the party should select someone from the cadre to contest, not an import from another party,” Parsekar maintained, even as his meeting with MGP chief Dipak Dhavalikar on Monday may make the BJP more anxious.
Dhavalikar himself has raised the pitch against the BJP by announcing his candidature from the Shiroda Assembly constituency and said he was also readying candidates for the other two seats.
State BJP President Vinay Tendulkar, though, claims the party is still confident that the MGP will not field candidates. “We are talking to the MGP,” Tendulkar said.
The MGP’s support is critical to the survival of the BJP-led coalition government. Failure to align with the MGP in the run up to the 2017 Assembly polls cost the BJP significantly, bringing its seat tally down from 21 to 13 seats in the House.
The Congress, which appears to be late off the block and has not nominated a single candidate, claims that the BJP is getting a taste of its own medicine, referring to the 2017 the saffron party’s move to form a government despite falling short of numbers.
“The BJP stole power to form a government in 2017. Their allies are now teaching them a lesson in the same coin of deceit,” Goa Congress spokesperson Urfan Mulla told IANS.