Key to BJP's prospects in Goa Assembly polls may rest with MGP


Panaji, Oct 17 : Even as Union Home Minister Amit Shah earlier this week urged the BJP workers to work towards ensuring full majority for the party in the 2022 Assembly polls in Goa, the party's ongoing parleys with its 'natural partner', the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), could hold the key to retaining power in the state for the ruling party. Over the last two-and-a-half decades, the electoral success of the BJP in Goa has relied on the shrinking but still valuable shoulders of MGP, much like the Shiv Sena had been critical in its support to the saffron party in Maharashtra since 1990s. It was with MGP as its key ally in the 2012 Assembly polls that the BJP-MGP 'mahayuti' managed to win its first simple majority in the 40-member state Assembly. In 2017, both the parties were on opposing sides, which also resulted in BJP managing to win only 13 seats. Unlike the Shiv Sena-BJP combine in Maharashtra, the MGP, led by the canny Dhavalikar brothers, Sudin and Deepak, has proved to be a cantankerous ally, ever since the two parties first came together to contest the 1994 Assembly elections. Founded by the state's first Chief Minister Dayanand Bandodkar, the MGP has been a grassroots party with an appeal among Goa's Hindu 'bahujan samaj' (non-Brahmin caste groups). The MGP was in power for 15 consecutive years since 1963, before ceding ground to the Congress and eventually to the BJP in the 2000s. In the 1994 Assembly polls, the BJP in alliance with the MGP tasted its first electoral success by winning four Assembly seats, while the MGP -- then a senior alliance partner -- managed to win 10. BJP's political rise in Goa is considered to have come at the expense of the MGP, with the latter's Hindu conservative base slowly slipping to the saffron party, whose national growth trajectory in the 1990s was also witnessing an upward graph. Ahead of the 2022 Assembly polls, even as the BJP has publicly postured that it is going into the elections alone, a recent meeting between former Deputy Chief Minister Sudin Dhavalikar and former Maharashtra Chief Minister and BJP's Goa in-charge for the 2022 polls, Devendra Fadnavism, raises questions over its solo resolve. Both leaders have been sketchy about the details of the meeting, with Dhavalikar reluctantly admitting to meeting Fadnavis and the Maharashtra Leader of Opposition initially denying meeting the MGP leader, before conceding that the meeting did happen, but adding that no political issues were discussed. According to Goa Transport Minister and part of the ruling party's national executive, Mauvin Godinho, BJP and MGP are "natural partners". "My clear view on the alliance is that, sometimes there are natural partners. And sometimes, despite being natural partners, even the best of partnerships crumble. But then there is a realisation 'what have I done, should we come together? we should come together'," Godinho said, adding that the final call on the alliance would be taken by the senior BJP leadership. Also, while Shah in his speech in Panaji on Thursday did urge the party workers to "step into the electoral fray to bring a government with a full majority", underlining that majority leads to stability of government, several other BJP leaders, including Fadnavis himself, have not ruled out forming an alliance. While Fadnavis said "our doors are open" for an alliance, Union Minister of State for Tourism Shripad Naik said that for the BJP in Goa, the "options (are) open" for an alliance. According to former state BJP chief and Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Tendulkar, anything can happen on the alliance front in the coming days. "Anything can happen anytime," Tendulkar said, perhaps also summing up the unpredictable nature of electoral politics in the coastal state. /IANS


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