Blame it on clubbing with elections in major states, the Election Commission gave political parties in Goa barely a month to try and gain support of voters. This is perhaps the shortest time given them ever for electioneering; in 2012, it was two and a half months. The short period will be a test for the organizational skills of political parties in reaching out to people. Short time will mean lesser time for rivals to enter into any acrimony and lesser expenditure on electioneering. It would be easier to maintain peace and order as the spite between rivals would in all probability end with votes being cast in the first week of February. Tighter election schedule means parties had to finalize candidates and seek alliances quickly. It remains to be seen how the parties shape up as the election date nears. The election this time around is expected to be multi-cornered with different combinations having been worked or at various stages of formation.
While the BJP, the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party have made their stand clear to go it alone, others – except MGP and Goa Suraksha Manch – are yet to take a call on whether to form alliance or not. The short schedule also saw formal breakup of the alliance between the BJP and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, who parted ways after being in power together for the last five years. The tight schedule also prompted MGP to expedite alliance with the Goa Suraksha Manch and Shiv Sena. The other political parties, including the Nationalist Congress Party, Goa Forward and the newly registered United Goans Party are still at the discussion stage whether to form alliance or not and perhaps could lose out on taking benefit that comes with early decision making.
While the BJP, AAP, MGP and GSM have come out with the lists of their candidates in many of the constituencies they plan to contest, the other three main political parties, the Congress, NCP and Goa Forward are yet to finalise their candidates and strategies. The BJP was quick to decide on most of its candidates the moment the election schedule was announced. The party has also planned scores of rallies and will benefit from the election meetings of twenty central leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The AAP began releasing lists of its candidates much before any other political party could even formulate strategies to derive benefit from being early bird. It also announced its chief ministerial candidate in Elvis Gomes. Besides, its topmost leaders, including Arvind Kejriwal have addressed nearly half a dozen meetings in the state. The MGP, GSM and Shiv Sena have also declared their candidates and the leader of their alliance, Ramkrishna Dhavlikar as the chief ministerial candidate. The other contenders – the Congress, NCP, Goa Forward and UGP – are still giving finishing touches to their tactics and lists of candidates, though they do not tire of saying they are ready to dislodge the BJP from power.
The party that could be most affected by the ECI decision giving the shortest possible time for selection of candidates and electioneering is the Congress. As has been the hallmark of the grand old party, this time around too it has delayed naming its candidates, though the All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge of Goa desk, Digvijay Singh had promised to declare the list of the party candidates by November 2016, if not earlier. Singh had also ruled out possibility of forming any alliance with any other political party on the ground that that was the collective view expressed by state party cadres. The central leaders of the Congress party have, however, been entertaining the list-ditch efforts of a state faction to form an alliance with regional parties, something the party cadres feel would upset the whole planning made by the state leadership for fighting the elections aiming at strengthening of the party. It remains to be seen which parties gain the favour of the voters. The manifestos of the political parties are not yet out, so voters do not have any means to judge which party is going to offer what. Some announcements and promises have been made by various political parties, but a total view is yet to emerge for the voters to make a decision. Of course, voters do not make their decisions entirely on manifestos. They vote according to their perceptions of which party can tackle the problems they face in their lives best. Then there are emotive issues of religion and language and the factor of bribery by candidates that influence their decision. It remains to be seen how the scene shapes up in the coming weeks.