The Goa election machinery is gearing up for Lok Sabha 2024 polls at a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party is basking in its moon-mission glory and will be eager to land itself on the treasury benches of the Lok Sabha for a third consecutive term.
The BJP is buoyed by its now Vishwa Guru-fame leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the party relies on his magic to keep the lotus blooming. Saffronites believe it will be “Phir ek baar Modi Sarkar” (“Yet again, it will be Modi government”).
In Goa, the BJP has already started work on shaping public opinion by invoking Modi at every public function, big or small. It is all and only about Modi – “Agar Modi hai to mumkin hai, nahi to sab mushkil hai” (“With Modi it is possible or else it is difficult”).
There is an aura of confidence among the BJP in Goa that the party will win both Lok Sabha seats. It is to be seen how the Congress plays its cards. Currently, the BJP holds the North Goa seat and the Congress rules South Goa.
In the current political scenario, the BJP seems to be in a very comfortable position to win North Goa.
However, its main priority is now the South Goa seat, which has eluded the party after the 2014 victory of Narendra Sawaikar. In 2019, Francisco Sardinha of the Congress wrested the seat back from Sawaikar.
In 2024, the BJP will bank heavily on new-old imports from South Goa, especially Aleixo Sequeira (Nuvem), Reginaldo Lourenco (Curtorim) and Digambar Kamat (Margao), to garner the maximum votes in the South, more so in minority-dominated Salcete.
In the current political situation, it appears that the BJP will have smooth sailing in 2024. However, political experts are divided.
They feel though Aleixo, Reginaldo and Digambar will be able to do damage to the Congress, it is Sudin Dhavalikar who will be able to scuttle Congress’ chances altogether in Madkai.
If one analyses the results of the 2019 LS elections, Sudin managed to garner a good number of votes for the Congress in Madkai, and also to some extent in Priol, which was enough for the party to win.
So, the Congress has much to fear as the BJP had actually made inroads in South Goa in 2019, and in 2024 it will be in a better position if it plays its cards well. However, the Goan voters, especially the youth, are intelligent and will not fall for polarisation.
The Congress will have to scout for a good candidate, who will endear voters to him, and he has to be a senior leader who will take on the might of Salcete bigwigs like Sequeira, Reginaldo and Digambar with his political acumen.
Now, will Sequeira and Reginaldo be able to mobilise minority votes for the BJP in Curtorim and Nuvem? How will they be able to convince voters to cast their ballot in favour of the lotus when the situation in the country is so communally volatile? Goa too has witnessed some untoward incidents.
It is still very early to say that the BJP will have it easy in Salcete because it is too early to gauge the mood of the people. Also, the BJP's game plan to polarise the country on communal lines will not work with the minorities.
There is the Aam Aadmi Party as well, which won two assembly seats in 2022. Now that the AAP is part of the INDIA bloc to take on the might of Modi in 2024, it is certain AAP will combine forces with Congress in Goa. BJP will have to tackle this with a new plan.
Now, which way Churchill Alemao will swing has to be seen. It is well-known that in political circles, Churchill has always hobnobbed with the BJP. He is yet to make his Lok Sabha intent known. The same goes with Luizinho Faleiro, who has fallen politically silent.
However, urbanised Goa will also change the political equations in Salcete, where a myth still floats that it is Christian-dominated. All that is changing, and it is changing at a very fast pace.
One cannot ignore in-migration and out-migration which will have a big bearing on the 2024 LS polls. If one looks closely, areas like Navelim and Benaulim cannot be said to be minority-dominated, though they still have a very big Christian population.
While Nuvem and Velim can still be said to be minority-dominated, things are changing in Navelim and Benaulim, where there is a large population of mostly Hindu migrants residing on the periphery.
Right now, the Bhandari Samaj, which has a large population in Goa, is very unhappy with the state BJP government, owing to perceived injustice against their leaders and lack of representation.
The BJP needs to do something to mitigate their grievances, or else, for the very first time in Goa's history, the Samaj may vote as a block.
It is certain that both BJP and Congress are back to the drawing board chalking out their strategies for 2024 and not taking their voter sentiments and aspirations lightly.