Goa’s next representative in the upper house of Parliament is set to be elected unopposed. The opposition in Goa has released a statement that they have decided to not field a candidate “as part of political strategy in the interest of Goa”.
This statement of not fielding a candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls was signed by the seven opposition MLAs after a meeting in the chamber of the leader of the opposition.
It led to the question of whether it was for them to decide on participating in the election or the party. They are the electors, but isn’t it the party that takes such decisions?
Reports in the local media stated that the AAP convenor in Goa said they would not participate in the Rajya Sabha polls. In the case of the Goa Forward Party, its lone MLA is also the party president. What about the Congress?
Reports in the media just a couple of days earlier indicated that the party had resolved to field a candidate and give it a fight. Was this decision reversed at any time for the three MLAs to decide not to field a candidate?
It would be interesting to know what transpired to make the Congress change its mind, even whether the party and the legislative wing are on the same page regarding the Rajya Sabha election.
But it is not as simple as that. Try as I may, I can find no strategic reason fathomable for the decision of the united opposition to not field a candidate for the lone Rajya Sabha seat from Goa.
Admittedly, there was no way that an opposition-sponsored candidate could win the election.
The numbers are stacked in favour of the ruling party candidate, where in a house of 40, there are just seven opposition MLAs. But should the opposition cave in so very tamely and allow the other candidate a walkover?
And that is when things began to unravel. The fact is that the opposition in Goa has been placed in a rather tight corner when it comes to fielding a candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls.
Given its strength of seven – three MLAs of the Congress, two MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party, and one MLA each of the Goa Forward Party and Revolutionary Goans Party – the opposition was in no position to field a candidate in the polls.
The rules provided that a recognised party must have at least 10 per cent of the strength of the Legislative Assembly to propose a candidate and in the event of it being an independent candidate, the nomination has to be proposed by 10 MLAs.
The mathematics just doesn’t work out in this case and so the opposition could not field a candidate.
Of course, the rules put the opposition in a very disadvantageous position, but the current situation has transpired only because of the defections of September last year when eight MLAs of the Congress broke away and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Had it not been for that, there would have been some semblance of a contest in the Rajya Sabha election, which now won’t happen.
Even with the knowledge that the opposition stands no chance of winning the election to the Rajya Sabha, there have been contests in the past elections, and fielding a candidate provides the opposition with the opportunity of raking up a host of issues in the run-up to the election.
The opposition even gets the opportunity to create a narrative around their candidate on issues that are plaguing the state.
Take for instance the presidential and vice presidential elections, where the opposition nominee is well aware that the fight will end in a loss. The intention is to challenge the government nominee, raise issues during the campaign, put up that appearance of a fight and show what democracy is all about. That will not happen in Goa.
In other states, the Rajya Sabha elections are keenly fought, and MLAs are even sequestered so there can be no poaching.
So, in Goa we have an opposition that is weak in numbers, but can it show its strength in functioning as one voice? There is a three-week-long Legislative Assembly session coming up.
Will the opposition rise to challenge the government during the debates in the Legislature? This question becomes pertinent as we now see that the numbers game has severely affected the functioning of the opposition in Goa.
The token contest in the Rajya Sabha polls has been ruled out. But Goa requires an opposition which is not seen as pliant to the government. It should not allow its strength to dent its fight.
Goa’s activists have been increasingly taking up the role of opposition, and keeping the government on its toes, a task that should have been taken up by the political opposition. It’s time for the opposition to do its job.