THE elections for Goa’s two Lok Sabha seats are round the corner. Though parliamentary elections are for mandate of the central government various local issues such as mining, unemployment, the Mopa airport project and pollution could play a role. The results would depend on how voters perceive the role of various candidates with respect to the issues they face. The 2014 parliamentary elections were fought on the issue of elimination of corruption in the country and resumption of mining. Goans were also promised a special status by none other than by Narendra Modi, who was declared the prime ministerial candidate by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP received overwhelming support and managed to win both the seats. However, the promises made to Goans remained unfulfilled. Confusion and resentment still persists in the trading community over complexities of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the dislocations caused by demonetization.
As usual political parties and candidates are going to use emotive issues to win over voters and promise them moon. It is up to the voters to judge the parties and candidates. The mining shutdown has led to reduced incomes for thousands of families. The mining dependants would definitely look to support political parties and candidates that would help them life the shutdown and resume mining so that they can gain back the avenues of employment they have been removed from. The BJP government at the Centre and in the state could not find a solution to the mining imbroglio. The Congress has promised to restart mining if it comes to power at the Centre.
Both the BJP and the Congress have failed to deliver on the promise of special status to the state. The issue is likely to figure this time too and the two mainstream parties need to come out with a credible proposal. Voters have become more aware and would be ready to question candidates and parties on how they would deliver on their promises. This is a new beginning though limited to a few places but there is a trend that more and more people would use the opportunity to seek answers from the politicians seeking to represent them in the Lok Sabha.
The sitting Members of Parliament, Shripad Naik and Narendra Sawaikar may have to campaign very harder to overcome the resentment over the failure of BJP to address the various issues affecting the people, mining shutdown being only one. They may have to answer why special status was not given to Goa, though Narendra Modi has made a promise. People may find it hard to be convinced that the Modi government fulfilled its promise of eliminating corruption. True, cases of corruption have been registered or old cases of corruption revived against leaders of opposition parties. But the promise of eliminating black money by bringing back the money stashed in the foreign banks and through demonetization has proved deceptive. The BJP had won the 2014 polls riding on the Modi wave and anti-corruption tirade against the UPA-II regime. Locally, the BJP also derived benefit from the fact that former chief minister Manohar Parrikar won the trust of a section of the Catholic community. This time around there is no Modi wave. The BJP would also be missing the charismatic presence of Parrikar. It is not going to be an easy journey for the two sitting MPs.
Though the elections are for the country’s Parliament with issues of national importance taking precedence over local issues, the larger share of vote would go in favour of the party that looks more credible for tackling Goa’s issues. Mining and growing unemployment have been two major issues for the last five years and any party which comes out with an acceptable solution to these issues and take them to the people could emerge victorious. The fate of the candidates of the Congress party, which has lost a significant number of workers following switchover of its leaders to the BJP in the state, depends on how much faith the voters of the two constituencies place in them about the capability and credibility of the party’s national leadership to resolve the issues facing them. The Congress candidates are hoping to capitalize on the anti-incumbency of the BJP-led government at the Centre. They would be depending on the sentiments among sections of people that have expressed their opposition to what they see as ‘divisive’ politics. However, on the whole, the fight between the BJP and Congress in Goa would be decided on the positive or negative perception of improvements in living standards that the Modi government has brought.