Tuesday 18 Jun 2024

Congress grip loosened over the years in South Goa as BJP made big strides

Once party's stronghold, Lok Sabha constituency poses tough challenge for party amid shrinking support base

THE GOAN NETWORK | APRIL 02, 2024, 12:52 AM IST
Congress grip loosened over the years  in South Goa as BJP made big strides

File photo shows Francisco Sardinha celebrating his victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha election when the Congress regained the South Goa seat with a wafer-thin margin of 9,755 votes.

Photo Credits: The Goan

MARGAO
As the Congress braces up to descend on the electoral battle to retain the South Goa seat, party leadership may have to tread a cautious path as poll statistics suggest a slow and gradual decline in the party’s support base over the last decade and a half in a constituency once considered its stronghold.

No doubt, the Congress has an impressive track record in South Goa. Statistics show the Congress has lost the seat only thrice in the recent political history spanning over 45 years since the seat was first won by former Union Minister Eduardo Faleiro in the 1977 polls.

The Lotus, on the other hand, first bloomed in South Goa in the 1999 election and again a decade and a half later in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, this time with a comfortable margin of 32,000-plus votes.

A glance at the poll statistics shows that the Congress’ South Goa fort had first crumbled in the mid-90s when the regional United Goans Democratic Party chief Churchill Alemao stopped former Union Minister Eduardo Faleiro’s free run in the constituency.

The Congress, however, regained the lost seat in the subsequent election. Incumbent MP Francisco Sardinha, who was fielded by the Congress, emerged victorious, leaving the UGDP and the BJP trailing behind, as the party regained stranglehold over the constituency yet again.

The Congress fort, however, again crumbled in the 1999 election, which saw the Lotus blooming in South Goa for the first time. In a three-cornered contest, BJP’s Ramakant Angle romped home with a 15,000-vote margin against Congress’ Joaquim Alemao to herald the BJP’s arrival in South Goa.

The Congress then bounced back in style to regain the lost ground in the 2004 polls. Congress candidate Churchill Alemao wrested the seat from the BJP by a record 50,524-vote margin, stunning poll pundits, and throwing all pre-poll calculations haywire. The massive victory also helped the Congress to send a message loud and clear to the BJP that the South Goa seat is the party’s stronghold.

The Congress maintained the winning streak in South Goa in the 2007 by-poll, due to the vacancy created by the resignation of MP Churchill Alemao. Francisco Sardinha kept the Congress flag flying high when he retained the seat for the party by a huge 40,902-vote margin.

Slow decline
The slow and steady decline of the Congress, however, started from the 2009 general election. Then sitting MP Francisco Sardinha retained the South Goa seat for the Congress but by a thin 12,512-vote margin. This assumes significance and comes against the backdrop of the fact that Sardinha had just two years back won the Lok Sabya by-poll by a whopping 40,000-odd vote margin.

What’s interesting to note is that though the BJP candidate Narendra Sawaikar lost the 2009 election, the election raised hopes for the saffron brigade as the party bridged the gap and reduced the victory margin from 40,000 votes to 12,515 votes.

The Congress fort finally crumbled in the 2014 election. If Narendra Sawaikar lost the seat by a whisker in the 2009 election, the BJP candidate came from behind to register an imprecise victory against the Congress candidate Reginaldo Lourenco, with Sawaikar wresting the seat for the party with a 32,330-vote margin.

Take note, the Congress bounced back in South Goa in the last election held in 2019. Francisco Sardinha once again regained the seat for the Congress in 2019 but by a slender margin of around 9,755 votes.

The victory triggered jubilation in the Congress camp, but political observers were quick to caution the Congress leaders over the slow and steady decline in the victory margins in South Goa, beginning with the 2009 Lok Sabha poll.

A glance at the 2019 poll statistics reveals that the Congress won the seat by a whisker despite Salcete strongly rallying behind the party, by giving an unassailable 50,000-vote lead. That’s not all. The Congress also improved its performance in the MGP strongholds, especially in Madkai and Sanvordem, after the regional party had extended support to the party in 2019.

Remarked a political observer: “No doubt, the Congress regained the South Goa seat in 2019 with odds favouring the party. Salcete had rallied strongly behind the Congress. The MGP factor also played a crucial role. But, the thin victory margin in 2019 has sent clear indications that the BJP is no pushover in South Goa and has emerged as a force to reckon with in the constituency.”

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