The municipal election results have come as a mixed bag for BJP that almost made it like a semi-final before the final in 2017. BJP-backed panels won majority in 6 councils – Mormugao, Mapusa, Pernem, Bicholim, Sanguem and Curochorem-Cacora – while Congress-backed panels won 3 – Margao, Valpoi and Quepem – with Cuncolim and Canacona ending in a tie. The BJP might have to do an unsparing internal review to understand why Digambar Kamat, despite being named the main suspect in Louis Berger bribery case, retained power in Margao with Vijay Sardessai, independent MLA. The elections to the Margao municipal council were a prestige fight for BJP. The party was hoping to cash in on the Louis Berger ‘infamy’ of Kamat but the results indicate voters were not influenced by it. The Kamat-Sardessai backed panel won in 17 wards and the BJP in just four. In the Fatorda Assembly segment, which has 11 wards, the BJP candidates drew a blank. Rubbing chilly on BJP wounds came the defeat of party-backed candidates by two party rebels.
In Canacona, there is a tie. Sports Minister Ramesh Tawadkar put up all efforts to ensure that his hold on the council prevailed. However, Tawadkar-backed panel managed to win only 5 wards, losing the other 5 in the 10-member council to the panel backed by Vijay Pai Khot. In order to ensure that the BJP win the majority in all the municipal councils the BJP had roped in the services of Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Union Minister of State for AYUSH (independent charge) Shripad Naik, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and all the state ministers. The Parrikar magic appeared to have worked in Mormugao where BJP was fighting against a panel put up by one of its allies in the last assembly elections led by Narayan Bandekar. The combined campaigning by Parrikar, Power Minister Milind Naik and Carlos Almeida helped the BJP-backed panel to romp home with ease. In Mapusa, Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza had not seemed very comfortable in the elections this time, but eventually the BJP-backed panel under his leadership won. However, the party would have to assess why the party’s prime candidate and former chairperson Rupa Bhakta was defeated.
Though the Congress had refrained from forming panels it had directed its leaders and cadres to support candidates of their choice, but the results indicate that the party has failed to make its presence felt in most areas after it lost power in the last Assembly elections. The victory of panels backed by Congress leaders Vishwajit Rane, Digambar Kamat and Chandrakant Kavlekar in Valpoi, Margao and Quepem respectively indicates that the party and its local leaders have retained their influence over voters in these areas. In Cuncolim, former Congress MLA Joaquim Alemao won 5, with independents winning 4 and the BJP-backed candidates three. After the results were out, the BJP claimed a majority in Cuncolim with support of independents. Yet the results in Valpoi, Margao, Quepem and Cuncolim indicate the BJP will have to work harder in these areas for the 2017 Assembly elections. There is much to ponder for the Congress too: it has to judge whether it would be able to recover its vote ahead of the next Assembly elections. The results in Pernem, Bicholim, Sanguem, Curchorem, Mapusa and Mormugao indicate the the Congress party in disarray. The party will have to work hard to win over the confidence of the people of Canacona and Cuncolim where it won the last Assembly elections as the party-backed panels suffered reversal. The results also indicate that the BJP would have to work hard in Valpoi, Quepem, Fatorda, and Margao assembly segments.
While political parties would burst firecrackers and also do some soul searching, it must be said that the results in municipal elections cannot be a measure of popularity of any political party. One of the reasons is that only four Assembly constituencies – Mormugao, Vasco, Margao and Fatorda – fall entirely in municipal areas and others are part of larger areas which are rural. The best we can say is that voters in urban areas of the state have elected their new representatives keeping in mind the local issues with a hope that they would be addressed. Though some of the stalwarts have been elected again some others have been rejected giving an indication that the voters preferred newer faces who would deliver. The voters in most municipalities have given clear mandate to the panels supported either by the BJP or Congress and this will perhaps help in ending the game of musical chairs that the councillors have been playing over the years and focus on development of the areas.