BY 2 pm, a nervous Rajendra Arlekar, standing in a corner of the counting centre at Bal Bhawan in Panjim, had become the face of the ruling BJP. As the sympathetic security protocol offered the Pernem candidate and Minister for Environment water and protection, and a sloganeering crowd of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) workers waited for him to come out, he seemed keen to escape.
By 3 pm, the numbers were not on the BJP’s side. The party that had hoped for a victorious majority of 24 seats stood struggling at 13, trailing the Congress by two seats. Apart from Arlekar, three other BJP ministers would go on to lose by huge margins.
By 4 pm, it was clear, Goa was heading for a hung Assembly.
The first indications of the BJP losing Goa were evident one hour into counting, with Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, who began his day with prayers at a temple, trailing Dayanand Sopte of the Congress. Eventually, Parsekar — who had been saying he wanted to return as CM, amidst talk of the BJP considering new names in case of a win — lost by 7,119 votes. Parsekar left the counting hall as early as 9.30 am, sweeping away all queries with “no comments”. He resigned as CM in the evening.
The other big casualty in the multi-corner fight was the Aam Aadmi Party. The only party to contest all 40 seats in Goa, it had a high-decible debut but drew a blank. In many constituencies, NOTA (‘none of the above’ option) polled more votes than the AAP.
Apart from the Congress and BJP, the MGP and Goa Forward won three seats, the NCP got 1 seat while three went to Independents.
The Congress’s tally of 17 includes six seats that it wrested back from the BJP — Mandrem, Tivim, St Cruz, St Andre, Siroda and Cuncolim.
Dr A Chella Kumar, who planned the Congress campaign along with party state chief Luizinho Faleiro, attributed the party’s performance to right choices, including fielding many fresh faces. The Congress also appears to have gained from the Church backing it, after having supported the AAP initially.
Late evening, Chella Kumar declared, “The Congress is forming the government. We also have an Independent, Rohan Khaunte, from Porvorim. We are safe.”
One of the closest contests was at Mormugoa, which the Congress lost by 140 votes. Chella Kumar admitted the loss hurt, along with the defeat of ally Atanasio Monserrate aka Babush from Panaji by a wafer-thin 1,069 votes. This was a prestige fight as the seat had been represented for five terms by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, before he moved to Parliament.
Monserrate contested on the United Goans Party ticket and had vowed to wrest the Panaji seat, claiming the capital city lacked development owing to Parrikar’s misgovernance and neglect. The winner, Siddharth Kuncalienkar, is Parrikar’s right-hand man and Parrikar had campaigned extensively for him.
While Monserate lost, his wife Jennifer Monserate, a sitting Congress MLA from Taliegao, retained her seat.
The fractured verdict puts the focus on periphery parties such as the Goa Forward, which won three of the four seats it contested, and the NCP, which won 1 of 17 contests. Both the parties are likely to back a Congress government. The sole NCP winner, Churchill Alemao, who won by 9,743 votes against popular AAP candidate Royla Fernandes, is a former Congress leader. Sources said Goa Forward leader Vijay Sardesai is also willing to back a Congress government if it considers Digambar Kamat for the post of CM.
However, that could be easier said than done. Apart from Kamat, three other ex-CMs of the Congress won on Saturday, including Luizinho Faleiro, Ravi Naik and Pratapsingh Rane, making the party’s choice difficult.
Apart from Parsekar and Arlekar, the BJP ministers who lost included Industries Minister Mahadeo Naik and Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar. Dejected BJP leaders refused to talk about Saturday’s result, and the party office was deserted. Parrikar, seen as the face of the BJP campaign, stayed out of sight, meeting leaders at the BJP headquarters.
Among the losers on Saturday was Francisco Xavier Pacheco, a candiate of the Goa Su Raj Party, who had not lost an election since 2002. He lost to the Congress’s Wilred D Sa.
The other big loser was the Goa Suraksha Manch of rebel RSS leader Subash Velingkar, which didn’t win a single seat of the six it contested in alliance with the MGP and the Shiv Sena. A few days ago, Velingkar had held a press conference saying he was returning to the RSS. “We are returning before the election results are announced. Our single task was to show the BJP its place,” he said.
The Shiv Sena also drew a blank.
SOURCE: INDIAN EXPRESS