The state is slowly getting into election mode, with the 2022 polls just a little over two months away. Leaders of political parties are back to their drawing boards deliberating on strategies before they churn out the election manifestos

On the fertile political ground in minority Salcete, considered the powerhouse, with as many as eight out of the 40 seats at stake, however, the picture is still unclear on the question of alliances, alignments and candidates expected to cross swords in the 2022 battle.

Political parties and individual players are still keeping their cards close to their chest, not just in unveiling their candidates, but in forging alliances to fight the 2022 polls. Besides Congress, a host of players are bracing up to make big in Salcete, including the Aam Aadmi Party and Trinamool Congress, besides the BJP, the Revolutionary Goan, and not to mention individual players and independents.

Cong: Clarity on alliances missing  

The Congress has set in motion the process for the selection of party candidates in Salcete. The exercise, however, has only kept the ticket aspirants and candidates in a fix, with no clear indications of how the party leadership will go about zeroing in on the candidates. Barring Margao, where Opposition leader Digambar Kamat has emerged as the undisputed leader for the ticket, the remaining constituencies are set to witness keen tussle for the party tickets, more so in constituencies including Velim, Nuvem and Curtorim.

The party also appears undecided on how to go about the poll preparations in the two constituencies of Benaulim and Fatorda, which are presently represented by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP). Local party leaders and workers seem to be vehemently opposed to forging any alliances with these parties in the coming polls.

In fact, confusion prevailed amongst the workers of Benaulim and Fatorda when the meetings of the two blocks called to recommend names of candidates were suddenly postponed. It’s another matter that party leaders have reassured to hold the postponed meeting to shortlist the candidates.

Congress sources informed the party is trying to rope in Priyanka Gandhi in Margao in early December to create a feel-good factor in favour of the party.

AAP: Making the right moves

Amongst the players in the fray, the Aam Aadmi Party seems to have marched ahead of others in Salcete in the task of shortlisting candidates and kick-starting its election campaign. AAP volunteers have been moving door to door in Benaulim countryside, besides Velim, Cuncolim and Navelim. The induction of Zilla Panchayat member Dominic Gaunkar has only added to the party’s strength in Curtorim. 

AAP’s campaign, however, is not much visible in the constituencies of Nuvem, Fatorda and Margao. No doubt, AAP has drafted its vocal leader Sandesh Talekar in Fatorda to lead the party’s campaign, but the party’s absence is felt in Margao, the constituency represented by Congress leader Digambar Kamat.

TMC: Yet to make a mark

Congress veteran Luizinho Faleiro’s entry had given the impetus to the Trinamool Congress in its efforts to establish its foothold in the minority heartland. The party, however, has a long way to go in Salcete, though the TMC strategists seem to be building the party block by block in the taluka. While top TMC leadership is expected to leave Navelim for Faleiro to ensure the seat comes into the party’s kitty without any problem, the party seems to be still looking out for strong and formidable candidates who can take on the might of the Congress and other players in the field. So far, the party seems to have made its presence felt in Navelim, Cuncolim, Velim and Benaulim. One, however, hasn’t yet come across any major political activity from the TMC in the remaining seats of Margao, Fatorda, Nuvem and Curtorim.

BJP: Waiting for the right strategy 

The ruling BJP seems to be gearing up to contest in its traditional strongholds of Margao, Fatorda and Cuncolim in minority Salcete. The party, however, appears still undecided in the remaining five seats, especially in Curtorim and Navelim, where the ruling party has a sizeable presence. Ruling party leaders in the know say the party leadership is waiting for the key opponents, including the Congress, to announce its candidates in Curtorim and Navelim before unveiling its strategy for these two seats. 

With AAP and TMC gearing up to challenge the Congress in its bastion, BJP leaders in private say the party is closely watching the developments before unveiling its election strategy.

Keeping their cards close to their chest 

Congress turncoats, Minister Filipe Neri Rodrigues (Velim) and Wilfred D’Sa (Nuvem), observers say, cannot be simply written off politically in the coming polls. The duo, who are presently part of the ruling BJP, are closely watching the developments unfolding in the Congress camps and other parties. Both Filipe Neri and Wilfred D’Sa are firm in their decision to seek reelection in 2022, but are again keeping their cards close to their chest, waiting for the main players to unveil their candidates. 

Churchill: Rooting for his daughter

Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) lone MLA Churchill Alemao is the cynosure of all eyes after he set November 29 as the self-imposed deadline to unveil his political future. Take note, Churchill is not only expected to decide his future but also the political future of daughter Valanka. He is weighing various options if the NCP is not willing to nominate him and Valanka in Benaulim and Navelim respectively. The Congress may be willing to concede the Benaulim seat to Churchill, but the principal opposition party appears strongly opposed to leaving the Navelim seat for the NCP. Observers say Churchill’s decision is expected to bring about realignment of political forces in the minority heartland. 

GFP: On a weak track for now

Goa Forward Chief Vijai Sardesai is still waiting for the top Congress leadership to announce a decision on stitching an alliance with the regional party. At a time when he is preparing the ground to seek reelection from Fatorda, local Congress workers have already sent a strong signal to the party leadership on their opposition to the party. The exit of the party’s Bhandari face Kiran Kandolkar is seen as a setback for the Goa Forward chief, with political observers saying the development may weaken his bargaining position with the Congress.

RG: Eager to make a splash

The Revolutionary Goans have announced a list of candidates for a couple of seats in Salcete. Party banners with RG leader Manoj Parab have come up in various parts of the taluka, indicating the group is gearing up for the battle on the banner of Goa Su-Raj Party.

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