The alliance of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Goa Suraksha Manch and Shiv Sena has decided to fight 37 seats: MGP, 27, GSM 6 and Shiv Sena four. Surprisingly, the Goa Praja Party which had been a part of the group has been given no seat.The three parties, which swear by ‘nationalist’ ideology much like the Bharatiya Janata Party, though with several differences in approach, style and political strategy, could dent the BJP’s vote bank. They are united in their mission to defeat the BJP, though they have come via different routes. The GSM came primarily along the medium of instruction route. Former Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh state president Subhash Velingkar revolted against the BJP government as it had not proven to be ‘nationalistic’ enough to stop grants to the church-run English-medium primary schools. The Dhavlikar brothers walked out of the government in order to let Ramakrishna Dhavlikar try to become chief minister. The Shiv Sena, which has no real presence in the state, wanted to field a larger number of candidates, and is happy to get four seats in the alliance.
It is too premature for alliance partners to claim that they would run a smooth government if elected to power. We have seen coalition governments cracking up in the past. They say they will form a co-ordination committee that would meet regularly to thrash out disputes. Past coalitions too had a co-ordination committee, but it did not help fix the fissures. The dominant party in the coalition often had its way and bulldozed partners into accepting its decisions. The Dhavlikar brothers accused the BJP of “humiliating” them when they were partners in government, but the point worth noting is that they accepted the BJP decisions because they were a dominant party and chose to bear their “humiliation” till the announcement of elections. The Dhavlikar brothers had similarly accused the Congress of not adhering to coalition dharma when they shared power with the party between 2007 and 2012.
It appears that rather than fighting elections on the development issues, the new alliance has focused its attention on withdrawal of the grants to English-medium primary schools to garner votes. Velingkar has gone on record to claim that such a stand was in consonance with the national education policy and would get full support from RSS cadres. The MGP supports the GSM on that score on the ground that primary education in Konkani and Marathi would save the culture and identity of Goa. Given the rigid stand that the alliance has taken on the issue of medium of instruction and also its focus on saving the culture and identity of Goa it remains to be seen whether the people of the state would rally behind it and give their approval to their agenda. The election results could well be a referendum on the MoI policy since the elections this time around are likely to be directly fought between parties wanting to continue the grants to English-medium schools and those opposed to them. The results could also perhaps resolve the MoI issue once for all. Although the alliance partners have drafted manifestos that include their promises on investments, tourism industry and employment, somehow the image of the alliance has come to be stamped with the language issue. Voters will look for a party or alliance that offers the best vision for fixing the problems of the state and taking it on the road to fast development with total employment and welfare of the weaker sections of society.
Focus on issues of language, culture and identity of Goa alone may not help the alliance reach the magical figure of 21 in the Assembly to rule the state for the next five years. They will be an issue in several constituencies but they will not be the deciding issue in the elections. After all, the MoI issue has been raised even in the past elections. The BJP did make a promise in the last elections on the subject, but we cannot say that the BJP’s performance is going to be judged by non-fulfilment of the promise alone. Its performance will be judged on grounds of development and anti-corruption and a host of other factors. And one thing that voters are going to take into account in weighing the alliance on the electoral scale is that the MGP had been a part of the government with the BJP. The party therefore shares the negatives of the BJP that they are hoping to capitalize on. Voters have a right to ask why did not the Dhavlikar brothers walk out of the alliance despite humiliation and despite the BJP taking decisions that were anti-development, anti-people and anti-Goan culture and anti-Goan identity.