There were many who thought Arvind Kejriwal was a philanthropist who wanted nothing more than ridding the national capital of Sheila Dikshit’s misrule. These people thought that Delhi would be Kejriwal’s final frontier and unlike the greedy and opportunist politicians that abound, he would dedicate himself to serving the denizens of Delhi. It now emerges that Delhi was only a pedestal for Kejriwal to catapult him into national political scene. Kejriwal is probably as interested in Delhi as Rahul Gandhi is in Amethi. Power and water woes may be pervasive, traffic might crawl at a snail’s pace, jhuggis might be flowering, but Arvind Sir is busy tweeting movie reviews or talking about the challenges facing Punjab. After his landslide rejection at the hands of the electorate in 2014, Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party have changed their strategy. They now realize that the way to national presence lies through the states. Already, Delhi has given Kejriwal enough clout in Media. His almost certain win in Punjab will ameliorate AAP’s profile and only make national politics louder and shriller. But it seems now that besides Punjab, AAP also has its eyes set on the tiny state of Goa. Arvind Sir is already waxing eloquent on his anti-corruption credentials in Goa that goes to polls next year.
Goa- A brief History
Goa returned to India following 451 years of Portuguese occupation in 1961. Four and a half centuries of Portuguese rule had resulted in Goa being distinct from India that surrounded it on three sides. For starters, Goa happened to have a substantial Christian population, nearly one-third of the population of Goa. Another difference was the pervasive Portuguese culture. Yet another difference was that regional awakening of Goans, as had happened with Telugus and Marathis and Punjabis, had yet to happen. Goa was dominated by Portuguese adoring Catholics and Marathi-cherishing upper caste Hindus.
But then there were similarities as well. Caste System, inherent to Hinduism was widely prevalent, not only among the Hindus, but also among the Christians. Hindu Brahmin converts to Roman Catholicism became Bamonns, Kshatriyas became Chardos, Shudras became Sudirs and so on. Caste based discrimination was as likely to occur among Hindus as Christians. With passage of time, upper castes became the most vociferous opponents of Portuguese rule.
The silent majority, composed of the lower castes had neither the voice nor the resources. When liberation came, Goa was dominated by the Congress, which was seen as an upper caste Hindu party and the United Goans party, which enjoyed support of the Catholics, who were widely seen to have propspered at the expense of Hindus during the Portuguese rule.
Growing national trend of caste awareness and caste mobilization washed up on Goa’s shores soon after its liberation, with the formation of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP).The MGP drew its support from non-Brahmin Hindus, who were the most deprived during the Portuguese rule. MGP became the default governing party of Goa. Even a failed attempt at “re-uniting” Goa with Maharashtra, did not result in erosion of MGP’s core vote bank. However, the political scene changed in the 90s when the MGP chose to ally with the BJP, whose star was on the ascendant.
BJP was expected to win the Upper Caste Hindu votes, while MGP garnered the lower castes, resulting in a formidable electoral alliance. Be that as it may, the BJP began to steadily eat into the MGP’s vote bank. So much so, that by the new millennium, power was being held alternately by the Congress and the BJP. Congress, as also the BJP, in Goa, was blighted by the issue of defections and splits. Goa has witnessed political turmoil that is disproportionate to its size.
Hindus form nearly 2/3rds of Goa’s population. Christians make up another quarter, with the rest being made up by Muslims and other communities. As one of India’s most advanced states, 49% of Goans reside in Urban areas and the state claims an impressive 87% literacy rate. However, issues of caste and religion continue to capture centerstage every now and then. Catholic church in Goa has regularly been flayed for supporting candidates belonging to one party over another. Even during the Lok Sabha elections, the Church had asked its followers to not vote for the BJP. Among the Hindus, OBCs make up nearly 40% of Goa’s population, SCs and STs make up another 4% of Goa’s population. Over 50% of Goa’s population is considered to be forward caste. Even with BJP’s popularity among the upper castes, MGP’s decline has meant that any party that seeks to come to power must have some sway amongst both Hindus and Christians. Congress-NCP combine also holds substantial sway among Hindu voters. Additionally, Congress is seen as more acceptable than the BJP among Christian and Muslim voters. BJP used the strategy of uniting Hindus and Christians to the hilt in 2012, fielding several catholic candidates, who turned the tide in favour of the BJP. In spite of this, it could garner only 9% of Christian votes. Congress’s defeat in 2012 was also aided by rampant corruption, nepotism and general decay in the Congress party. Parrikar’s Mr. Clean image also had a big role to play in BJP’s win that saw the BJP-MGP alliance corner nearly 40% of the votes.
How will AAP fare?
In some ways, Goa resembles Delhi. Firstly, it is a highly urbanized state. Secondly, higher levels of literacy, frequently results in Goans voting on issues of development and not only caste and religion. In such a political arena, it is easier for a newcomer to establish itself by channelizing the electorate’s frustrations.
AAP did this beautifully in Delhi, when they blamed all of Delhi’s ills on Sheila Dikshit’s corruption-ridden government.Unfortunately, in Goa, there does not seem to be a similar case till now.
Parrikar was widely seen as an efficient administrator, who himself led BJP to victory on an anti-corruption agenda. Parrikar’s successor, Parsekar, although not Parrikar himself is widely believed to be doing okay. There is no doubt that BJP will depute Parrikar to Goa when it goes for polls next year. Additionally, the Congress that has been out of power in Goa for 5 years and is desperate to retain a state in front of an unrelenting Modi wave will also enter the electoral field in Goa with all guns blazing. This might make the fight tough for AAP. Regional parties such as MGP and UGDP (forerunner to UGP) have substantial vote bank loyalties that will be difficult to overcome. AAP might also need some more time to break the essentially bipartisan nature of Goan politics.
On the whole, it makes sense for Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP to foray into newer territories and Goa is a territory where prima facie AAP can do well. However, it looks unlikely that it will storm to power in Goa in 2017. That probably is anyways not AAP’s agenda. Perhaps, AAP only intends to set up springboards from which they can launch themselves, more successfully, during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. All having been said, 1 year is a long time in Indian politics. What will happen in Goa in 2017, only time can tell.