Goa Assembly Elections: Key issues
The Goa Assembly elections are being fought on a number of issues with the ruling BJP promoting ‘development’ as the key issue while the opposition parties focus on issues such as corruption, environment, and Goan identity.
The ruling BJP has made the development of the state the over-arching issue for the polls. So much so that it has avoided issues such as identity and religion, which play a key role in its campaign in other states such as UP. From its manifesto to the campaign rallies, the BJP has highlighted the development projects carried out by its government and attributed these to the ‘political stability’ brought about by the party’s rule in the state.
BJP has carefully avoided the cultural, language, and identity issues that form the key campaign plank for the Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) led by the breakaway Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Subhash Velingkar. The current chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar even indirectly targeted Velingkar and MGP, for raising “language and communal issues to disturb communal harmony in Goa.”
BJP leaders have also been non-committal on issues such as a ban on casinos in the state, as well as the environmental and corruption-related issues related to the mining industry.
On the otherhand, the BJP is highlighting the recent Rs. 15,000-crore granted by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for improvement of road and bridge infrastructure in Goa.
In a recent rally in Goa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the dared the opposition to fight the elections on the issue of development. He credited the state government for laying the foundation for Goa’s gigantic development over the previous five years and promised to make Goa “the most comfortable state” in the country if the BJP returns to power in the state.
Realising the importance of tourism in the state, Modi also linked development with tourism. “My government is laying emphasis on inbound tourism to India. Goa is set to benefit the most from it. We have introduced relaxed visa regime including visa on arrival and e-visa which will boost tourism in Goa. The Centre is making efforts to bring in more foreign tourists and it is up to the state governments to ensure they stay longer. The Goa government has taken correct initiatives and we are working together to make Goa more attractive for tourists,” Modi said.
Modi also pointed out that the political instability in the state during previous governments had adversely affected Goa’s development and promised “a new era of development” for the state under BJP.
Corruption and Environment
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is contesting the assembly elections for the first time in the state, has made corruption and environmental issues the cornerstones of its campaign. The party’s manifesto promises corruption-free governance, pollution-free mining, and tourism free from casinos, gambling, drugs and prostitution.
The AAP chief ministerial candidate for Goa, Elvis Gomes, has said that corruption was one of the main issues affecting the state and promised that if the AAP came to power, corrupt miners would be put behind bars.
"Corruption is one of the main issues as far as Goa is concerned. It (corruption) is the system that has developed. Today the general complaint is that people's work is not getting done," Gomes said in a recent interview during the campaign.
"Improve the governance structure, streamline them, give them necessary training, make them efficient, put good people on the job and see that all your policies start percolating at grass root level, that is the first priority," he said.
AAP has also raised the issue of casinos in the state and promised to not renew their licenses if it comes to power.
The party has also promised strict action on a wide range of environmental issues ranging from illegal mining to ecologically-destructive fishing.
Popular outrage over illegal mining of iron ore and the resultant corruption and environmental damage played a key role in sweeping the Congress out of office in the 2012 assembly elections. However, AAP alleges that the BJP, once in power, failed to go after the accused in illegal mining cases.
Goan Identity and Culture
Goan identity and culture are the focal issues for a group of parties, represented by the recently formed Goa Suraksha Manch, Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party, and Shiv Sena. Goa Suraksha Manch, formed by the rebel former Goa RSS chief Subhash Velingkar, has accused the BJP of betraying Goan language and culture and is contesting five seats as part of an alliance with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Shiv Sena.
Velingkar has criticised the BJP government for backing English over regional languages as a medium of instruction in schools and promised to promote Goan regional languages such as Konkani and Marathi, as well as restore the image of Goa in line with “Indian ethos”.