The Congress party, which earlier ruled out alliance with any party for the Goa Assembly elections, appears to be rethinking, though the Goa Pradesh Election Committee and the Goa Pradesh Congress Co-ordination Committee in their meetings last Friday could not reach a consensus on the issue. There is a growing view in the party that it should seek alliance to win constituencies where its chances are not good. However, the party does not want to take a decision until the BJP and MGP sort out issues of their alliance.
As of now, the Congress position was put forth by AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh: the party was preparing to contest all the 40 seats and there was no proposal for any alliance. Digvijay Singh and other central party leaders have taken the cognizance of opinions expressed by some senior leaders that even if alliance was formed with any party or
individuals, the Congress leadership should not endorse the candidacy of those who left the party to join others in order to get nomination as Congress’ alliance partners in case alliance was formed.
However, the Congress is making a mistake by delaying finalization of Congress nominations for constituencies where it finds itself in good position. If candidates were announced they could have begun canvassing for themselves in their constituencies. This could have particularly helped the candidates who would be fighting elections for the first time. Party insiders observe that the state Congress had lost its early advantage in the past elections by announcing candidates at the last moment. It is up to the party central and state leaders to hammer out the differences over candidature in the block committees and district committees as quickly as they could.
The party may have another reason for holding back the names of candidates. Some of the Congress MLAs have been playing their own games to get what can be described as bloc or group nomination. They not only want their own nomination but also for their handpicked candidates in a few contiguous constituencies. The game they are playing is aimed to gain the power of three or four instead of one in order to bargain for the maximum in cases the Congress comes back to power.
As on alliance, there are cross currents in the party on the casino issue. Party leaders are hoping to get a popular traction during elections with the promise to prevent Goa from becoming a “sin city”. Congress president Luizinho Faleiro has been quite forthright about closing down the casinos. There are others in the party that would want the casinos to operate, but out of the Mandovi. There are still others in the party that would let thecasinos be where they are but ban the entry of Goans in them. These are the kinds of views that reflect the views of different sections of society, and the Congress has to arrive at a clear decision in order for voters to know what they want to do.
Before the Congress makes a firm promise of shutting down casinos in their manifesto they must explain how they are going to find alternative sources of revenue to make up for the loss of revenue from casinos. People have not forgotten that the BJP too made a radical promise on casinos but they have found a hundred excuses not to fulfill it. What guarantee is there that the Congress would not do the same?
It is very essential for the state Congress to send out a clear message not only on casino but on all issues. The party was thrown out of power in the last elections on issues of corruption, bad governance and infighting. If at all voters think about electing Congress back to power, they would like to see firm, clear and strong signs of the party not repeating the same dirty and miserable performance.
In the first place, they would expect the party to be united. But even more than that, they would expect the party to announce candidates who are younger and do not carry the public branding as “corrupt” on their backs. There are some veterans in the party who have built up strong support for themselves in their constituencies: the party has no way but to re-nominate them.
However, in the other constituencies, the party has the chance of regaining popular confidence by selecting new candidates or senior party men who have a comparatively better image in their constituencies. To win back public hearts, the Congress party must look like a fit machine to walk the talk – not just on casinos, but also on curbing corruption, getting investment, creating jobs, improving infrastructure and reducing taxes and tariffs.