Is the Goa Forward’s anger for not considering their candidates in St Andre and Canacona constituencies affect the alliance with Congress? Or is Congress following a care-a-damn attitude? In a sudden turn of events, restlessness and animosity seem to have surfaced after the grand old party picked Anthony Fernandes and Janardhan Bhandari for St Andre and Canacona, ignoring Goa Forward’s nominees Jagdish Bhobe and Prashant Naik. In a swift move, Bhobe quit the Goa Forward and was promptly named by Trinamool Congress as their St Andre candidate.
The coming together of Congress and Goa Forward has been one of the most contentious arrangements in the run-up to the 2022 elections because of the roller-coaster ride it had. The ghost of 2017 was haunting, until a time when the high command stepped in and acceded to the "offer of help" followed by a hand-holding photo op in Delhi. Since then there have been a series of flip-flops with Congress leaders speaking in contrasting tones bringing in once again an element of uncertainty.
For all the talk of putting the past behind, looking at the BJP as a common enemy and walking together into the future, one expected that the contours of this once-troubled alliance would be well-defined, especially against the backdrop of distrust.
By ignoring Bhobe, Congress has made a strong statement that it doesn’t care for the ally. The exit of Bhobe puts Goa Forward chief Vijai Sardesai in an awkward position especially when selfish motives are attributed to the arrangement.
Bhobe has been on the ground campaigning in full steam, and pulling the plug on his candidature when the election is barely one month away is most unfortunate. We can’t discount the fact that campaigns involve time, energy and big money. There should have been clarity on seat sharing, especially when decisions on candidates are taken at the eleventh hour leaving very little scope for those fallen out of favour.
Goa Forward Vice-President Dilip Prabhudesai expressed disappointment that a commitment was not honoured.
“We had discussed five seats and verbally agreed that the candidates will meet certain criteria. What was required is a common programme, mutual respect and fidelity to the commitment by the partners that they should abide by them”, he said.
Goa Forward has indicated that it is watching the situation and has cautioned the Congress of appropriate steps if required. It emerges that the Goa Forward is nurturing hopes of getting the Mandrem seat by using St Andre and Canacona losses as a bargain.
Congress appears to be in no mood to compromise on seats, especially now that it is bolstered by the late inclusion of some big names. In all probability, it will not let go of the Mandrem seat to Goa Forward because it considers Fatorda as the biggest sacrifice it has made. Goa Forward will have to be content with two seats of Fatorda and Mayem and live with the hope that the Congress will play by the spirit of alliance on the ground.