HAS ‘BHAI’s POPULARITY DROPPED??
Having only managed 13 of the 40 constituencies, Goa had declared an anti-BJP sentiment in the February 2017 election. The anti-BJP wave seemed to have continued even for the Panaji by-poll that saw saffron party candidate and former Defence Minister and incumbent Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar winning the election but not with a kind of vote share the party and the leader expected.
Parrikar, who was ruling the Panaji Assembly constituency since 1994 (until November 2014, when he got elevated in the Narendra Modi-led cabinet), won the by-poll with 9862 votes. The total vote share declined compared to 2012, when he scored 11,086 votes.
The BJP’s tallest leader, who had to return back to state politics to lead from front a coalition government, won with a mere margin of 4803 votes against Congress’ Girish Chodankar who got hold over 5059 votes. What is interesting to note is that despite the Panjimites’ beloved Bhai in the battle field, the overall voting percentage witnessed a decline of seven percent compared to that of February 2017 polls- when then BJP MLA Sidharth Kuncalienker contested. All these do not hear much drums or loudspeakers to those who were cherishing Parrikar’s return with smiling faces and had predicted a victory margin of not less than 9000 votes.
“I am happy to be back to the original place,” Parrikar said after being sworn in as a MLA to the State Legislative Assembly. In the days leading to the by-poll, Parrikar had all his allies sitting behind mikes –supporting him, speaking of him as the glue that holds the government, its politics and policies together. A strange and unexpected move, many felt.
The people of Panaji were proud of the fact that their leader was picked by Modi in his first ever cabinet expansion in November 2014. Parrikar was sworn in as Union Defence Minister- the third rank in the Union cabinet. However, his love towards state politics was quite evident with his frequent visits to Goa on weekends and his superimposition in the state government’s decision making process.
Considering the political history that Congress party has won only twice in Panaji, that was in 1984 and 1989, when Joao Baptista Gonsalves wrested the seat for the party.
No doubt that Congress has a base in the constituency, but if election math has to be seen – Congress has never secured such vote share (5059) against Parrikar – and certainly not this margin in any of its previous five elections. The Congress vote share, despite introducing a new non-resident face, was quite impressive. The party’s last such performance was in 2012, when its candidate Yatin Parekh secured 5018 votes. The saffron brigade has managed to hold on to the Panaji seat for the past 18 years including elections in 1994, 1999, 2002, 2007, 2012, 2015 (by-poll) and 2017.In 2012, the election that saw BJP achieving an historic victory with clear single majority. Meanwhile, with the backing of Babush Monserrate, Congress had managed 5018 for their candidate Yatin Parekh.
Parrikar had a chartbuster figure of 11086- a victory margin of 6068 votes. It is interesting to see that this time, without Monserrate’s support, Sonia Gandhi-led party created a wave against Parrikar- shaking his bastion partially. Monserrate, who had contested from Panaji against Sidharth in 2017 election, had got over 6000 votes, when BJP managed to win a sleeping margin of 919 votes.
“Absence of Parrikar from the state politics is something that affected his popularity, and its results are evident from this election,” BJP senior leader and Union Minister Shripad Naik said. In 1999 Parrikar had won with 5912 votes against Congress’ Keshav Prabhu’s 2815 in a seven cornered fight.
In 2002, Parrikar touched 5700 against Congress’s Ramesh Silmkhan 4408, which was considered as a close fight. The 2007 election too gave a clear majority to Parrikar against Congress’ Dinar Tarcar. While Parrikar got 6004 votes, his contender had 4560 votes. There is no doubt that Parrikar overpowered Chodankar in almost every polling station, leading right from round one; but the AICC leader left his mark on the people. The political experts feel that unhappiness and anger against Sidharth during his rule, is also one of the reasons that contributed to declining vote share of Parrikar. Moreover, Parrikar’s negligence towards the constituency for past 20-22 years also raised question in the minds of the voters.
While the Congress created its base and its voters remained intact for last one decade, the Sonia Gandhi-led party failed to have a proper organisational setup to deal with well trained and disciplined BJP Panaji mandal. Its candidate Chodankar was rightfully accepted by the people; but failed to garner the required support in his battle against Parrikar.