As the upcoming state Assembly polls draw closer, faint contours of a broader alliance of 'anti-BJP' forces -- barring the Congress party -- appear to be emerging in Goa.
Even as the consolidation of opposition votes could spell a challenge for the BJP, which until last week was relishing the prospects of a fractured opposition, the BJP has insisted that the coalition was too disparate and will not cut ice with the Goan voters.
Since the early 2000s, an Assembly election in Goa meant a two-cornered contest between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, with bit players like the once-mighty Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, United Goans Democratic Party playing tag. The Nationalist Congress party too was added to the mix, before Goa Forward, a new regional party also made its presence felt in the 2017 polls.
However with the resurgence of the Aam Aadmi Party and the emergence of the Trinamool Congress -- fresh from its dogged victory against the BJP in the 2021 West Bengal polls -- the flavour of Goa's poll-pot has changed considerably.
Until last month, the BJP 'claimed' it was in the driver's seat for the upcoming polls, with senior BJP leaders citing the split opposition as a factor for their confidence.
The first signs of opposition parties egging each other for an alliance came when the TMC tied up with the MGP last month.
"60 per cent of Goans cannot decide whom to vote for. If they cannot decide with elections just around the corner, it is because of the poor governance, poor administration by the BJP government in Goa," Dhavalikar said, underlining the need to consolidate the opposition vote to take advantage of anti-incumbency and the poor administrative track record of the BJP-led coalition government in Goa.
The second alliance in the opposition camp was announced in a matter of days between Congress and the Goa Forward. "Goa Forward was discussing with us for a long time and we have now come to an understanding and we have formed an alliance. It will be a good alliance to take on this communal BJP and corrupt BJP. I think this will be a good beginning," All India Congress Committee official in-charge of Goa Dinesh Gundu Rao said.
What has however changed over last week, is parties from both alliances -- the Trinamool Congress and Goa Forward -- voicing the need for both alliances coming together to form a larger alliance to take on the BJP.
The outreach was first made by Goa Forward party president Vijai Sardesai on Friday.
"BEAT THEIR GAME PLAN! @BJP4Goa will use #COVIDThirdWave restrictions to manipulate the electoral process to grab power. We must, along with @INCGoa, @AITC4Goa and #MGP must see this danger, rise above our egos, and thwart this plan to divide and rule. This is what #Goa wants," Sardesai said, soon after a conversation with TMC's political strategist Prashant Kishore.
The tweet predictably solicited response from Trinamool Congress's in-charge of Goa Mahua Moitra.
"Rest assured, we the AITC will do everything possible to defeat BJP in Goa- @Goaforwardparty, @INCGoa @AITC4Goa and #MGP. @Mamataofficial has done it in past & will not shy away from walking extra mile in Goa too," the Trinamool Lok Sabha MP said.
While All India Congress Committee senior observer in-charge of Goa P. Chidambaram has said that he was not in a position to comment on the broader anti-BJP coalition issue, state Congress president Girish Chodankar has said that the way Trinamool has gone about setting base in Goa, it appeared that the Congress and not the ruling BJP was the party's main enemy.
"I do not know who they are referring to when they say opposition. For them perhaps the opposition is the Congress in Goa. The manner in which they purchased all leaders from the Congress, they tried to stop the Congress from taking on the BJP. There is a perception in Goa that the opposition to Trinamool is the Congress and that they are in Goa to defeat the Congress," Chodankar said.
The BJP however insists that the opposition alliance was too incongruous to succeed.
"We will fight it out because this alliance you are talking about (which is) coming together as we speak are on different platforms. They cannot cut ice with the people of Goa. They are thinking of coming together and trying to cobble up some numbers. They will not achieve it," Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said.