Congress blows poll bugle, LS contest comes alive in Goa

| APRIL 09, 2024, 10:52 PM IST

After a lot of dilly-dallying, yes-and-nos, and bouts of uncertainties in naming candidates, the grand old party has got its act together and officially flagged off campaigns on Gudi Padwa. Incidentally, the Congress gets off the blocks when rival BJP almost ends its first round of campaigning.

Amid all the indecisiveness, the Congress high command has taken a very cautious and calculated approach in finalising candidates given the fact that it chose a new face in Capt Viriato for South and a veteran in Ramakant Khalap in North, choices that found instant acceptability within the allies.

The decision to field Capt Viriato was not only brave but also sent out a strong message. On the other hand, to send a standing MP packing can never be an easy decision, especially when there is a giant killer of the stature of Francisco Sardinha who has an excellent track record politically,  having been elected six times as an MLA and four times as an MP. At the outset, it was because of the probability of Sardinha being renominated that the BJP had to re-strategise and look beyond aspirants like Narendra Sawaikar and Chandrakant Babu Kavlekar.

Capt Viriato not only brings freshness to the table but also livens up the competition. Both BJP and Congress candidates may be new faces but stand diametrically on the political landscape. While BJP goes with the brand of Dempos in Pallavi, Capt Viriato comes with the ‘fouji’ tag having served in the Navy and carries no baggage that generally weighs down politicos. In the North too, the Congress has ignored names like Vijay Bhike and Sunil Kauthankar and zeroed down on Khalap as a perfect foil for veteran Shripad Naik. Eventually, Congress has found a right balance in fielding a new face versus a new face and an old warhorse against a veteran, throwing the contest wide open contrary to the claims of BJP romping home with sweeping wins.

The Congress may have struck the right chords in choosing candidates, but it still has a lot of gaps to fill in the run-up to elections. While the party goes into campaign mode, it is the cadre and party discipline that gives the BJP a defining edge over the Congress. BJP, a party which has a refined structure in place has got the aggression and stubbornness to firefight dissension, which is why, political players who fall out of favour don’t take cudgels against the leadership. Congress holds a legacy of dissension with leaders who have fallen out of favour going to extreme ends of embarrassing the leadership and even breaking ranks.

In the instant case, a pained Sardinha chooses to take political sanyas after not being considered for the ticket, which means he has decided not to campaign for the party nominee and supposedly his good friend Capt Viriato. Sardinha could have helped in a big way with his outreach in the hinterland. Sawaikar and Kavlekar are making their presence felt for the BJP.

The INDIA bloc support will give an additional layer of comfort to the Congress going into this election, and despite the factions within and the Chodankars and Sardinhas playing it out their way, the Lok Sabha election has come alive in Goa and Congress is surely back in the game.


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