A year after the Goa Assembly elections 2022 results, the Congress was expected to be a significant contender for power, returning with 11 seats. However, the party in Goa has apparently not succeeded in clawing its way up in the popularity contest.
In September last year, six months after the election results, it lost eight MLAs to be reduced to three in the Legislative Assembly while the mainstream media has mainly ignored the party and its activities.
On Sunday of last week, some of its leaders were detained on their way to the BJP meeting that was addressed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
They were proceeding there to protest or demand action on the Mhadei issue. The coverage of their detention in the mainstream media was minimal. It could almost have gone unnoticed.
This was not the first time that the party has not been covered by the media. Last month, its Hath se hath jodo yatra began from Tiracol and had its members travelling across the state meeting people.
It was the party’s first major connection with the people since the last election. Present on day 1 of the yatra were the state unit president, the leader of the opposition, its South Goa MP and others.
Yet, mainstream English media largely overlooked this yatra, with no coverage in the newspapers the following day. The only way people could get to know of this yatra was if they followed the Congress on their social media accounts.
It almost appears as if mainstream media has written off the Congress in Goa, a party that once dominated state politics, having governed the state for long periods and having led the opposition when not in power.
It currently still is the single largest opposition party, but is it still being viewed as the leading opposition party?
That the Congress, Goa’s main opposition party that still is the only contender for leadership in the state other than the Bharatiya Janata Party, cannot get the media coverage that it would otherwise command, raises some serious questions about its continued survival.
The party exists and is making noises – whether the noises are right or wrong can be a discussion for another day – but those noises and actions are not reaching the people.
There can be no doubt that the party is facing an existential crisis in the state that is important for it to emerge from successfully.
The idea of a party like the Congress is essential for Goa, as it remains the only party whose ideology can reach out to a wider section of the electorate. It is neither constrained by the fetters of regionalism nor by the unpredictability of a fresh entrant.
The other parties occupying the opposition space in Goa have one or the other of the two drawbacks listed above. So while it possesses the advantages, the Congress is still unable to channel that advantage to its benefit in a state.
But Congress, too, needs to rise to the occasion. It might have launched a yatra, but simultaneously there appears to be a certain reluctance on its part to reach out to the people, to take up issues, to claim that opposition space and lead the opposition. Take Panjim for instance – when the city is being drilled all over, where is the party?
The visible foot-dragging in taking the initiative possibly has to do with the leadership that is new and with little experience in playing the role of the opposition after the stalwarts deserted the party.
But with some effort, this lack of experience could be converted into a gain as after a long period Congress has a leadership that does not come with past baggage. What’s stopping the party from doing so?
For staging a recovery in time for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections that are just a year away, the party has but a little time. Time and tide wait for none, much less a political party.
Unless the Congress in Goa can recover and renew itself, it faces an existential crisis that could see it being swept away in 2024, with other parties grabbing a vote share that essentially belongs to the Congress.
The current political trends in Goa definitely do not favour the Congress. The cluttered opposition space is forcing the Congress to first consolidate itself there before challenging the party in power.
Congress has to establish a roadmap for the coming months, whereby it re-establishes itself as a political party. Its bane has been its choice of candidates who show no qualms in deserting it on getting elected. Its strength is the party members who remain loyal despite the upheavals. It is here that the party must look to as it rebuilds itself.