The Congress-turned-BJP MLA Digambar Kamat faced a major humiliation after the BJP-backed candidate suffered a surprise defeat in the keenly-watched election of the chairperson of the Margao Municipal Council on Friday. In an unexpected turnaround, the BJP-backed councillors, who were clearly in the majority, cross-voted to give Vijai Sardessai's panel-backed candidate Ganashyam Shirodkar an overwhelming win. As a result, the hopes of the BJP holding the reins of power of the civic body after 17 long years have been blown apart.
The election assumed political significance because it came two days after eight Congress legislators, including Kamat, switched sides to the BJP amid a wave of anger and outrage among the electorate. While the merger of the breakaway faction took place and the Congress MLAs saddled themselves in the BJP ranks, there were questions over acceptability and compatibility between ground-level workers, even as murmurs of dissent in the saffron camps were growing louder.
The chairperson's election amplified the fact that cadres and party workers may not always be in sync with State-level politics. In the case of the MMC chairperson's election, the BJP group appeared a clear winner on paper. However, the political undercurrents could be felt as Chief Minister Pramod Sawant rushed to Margao and held elaborate meetings to clear differences and bring together the BJP and Digambar camps. Eventually, none of that worked, not even assurances given by the councillor to Sawant. The CM had to eat a humble pie since he had announced his confidence that the BJP panel would win with a clear majority.
The sudden marriage of convenience between the BJP and now-turned-saffron Kamat has been rejected, at least by the workers. The result reflects the mood within the BJP and has sent a clear message that the rank and file of parties may not change based on how politicians change colours. Moreover, the hollowness of acceptability of the change stands exposed.
The Congress, which has been severely crippled and reduced to three MLAs, will find some solace in the Margao development because this could rekindle their revival plans. Congress Goa in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao's tweet of a congratulatory message to Goa Forward Chief Vijai Sardesai and a telephone call to the winning candidate Ganashyam not only reflect the mood but also goes to show how closely this election was monitored.
On the flip side, the CM called all the BJP councillors to Panaji and took a review showing that he meant business. Understandably, this is an embarrassment to the CM too. But for their tough political posturing and transactional politics, BJP may be knocking on the municipality's door again, and we may soon hear of Ganashyam ousted in a no-confidence move. But that's for another day.
The civic defeat has set the tone, and these are warning signs that the BJP will have to deal with as they move on with a new set of Congress-turned-saffron legislators. For now, it's time for Kamat to reconcile with political uncertainties and first find peace in the new ecosystem he has landed in.