BJP has 11 Christian MLAs in Goa; all but one are Cong turncoats

By Sanjay Borkar

Panaji, Apr 30 (IANS): In the 40-member Legislative Assembly of Goa, there are 16 Christian MLAs and most of them are BJP members. However, political leaders and people opine that all Christian voters are not with the saffron party.

According to them, people vote for individuals and not for the party. However, the BJP is trying hard to reach out to the Christian voters, who can change the political equations in the coastal state.

The BJP currently has 11 Christian MLAs. Leaving aside Joshua De Souza, the rest of the MLAs are all imported by the saffron party and have roots in the Congress.

Joshua De Souza's father, the late Francis De Souza, was first elected as an MLA in 1999 as a candidate of the Goa Rajiv Congress Party. Later in 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017, he contested on BJP tickets.

After his death in 2019, Joshua De Souza got elected in a 2019 by-election on a BJP ticket. He is currently the Deputy Speaker of Goa Assembly, who won a second time in 2022.

After the February 2022 Assembly polls, the BJP elected Joshua De Souza, Atanasio Monserrate and his wife Jennifer Monserrate, Mauvin Godinho and Nilesh Cabral, who had camaraderie of people as individual. The saffron party also got support of Independent MLAs Antonio Vas and Aleixo Lourenco.

Lourenco was a former Congressman, who quit the party and had joined Trinamool Congress. But ahead of the Assembly elections, he also left the Trinamool and contested as an Independent.

In September 2022, former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, Michael Lobo, Delilah Lobo, Kedar Naik, Sankalp Amonkar, Rajesh Faldesai, Aleixo Sequeira and Rudolf Fernandes joined the BJP, reducing the Congress to three MLA's in the 40-member state Assembly.

Congress MLAs, Leader of Opposition Yuri Alemao, Carlos Alvares Ferreira and Altone D'Costa, and AAP MLAs Venzy Viegas and Cruz Silva, are left in opposition side out of the 16 MLAs of Christian community.

Salcete Taluka, having eight constituencies, was once a stronghold of Congress. The BJP eyeing this taluka had tried to elect its candidates, but could win only one seat from the Navelim constituency in 2022.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, after the election, had said that as they won one seat from Salcete, now they will start making inroads in seven other constituencies.

Even the late Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had started 'Mission Salcete' to strengthen the foothold, but nothing much happened then.

Salcete has always benefited the Congressto form a government as the majority of their candidates used to win from here. This taluka is believed to be a game changer in the politics of Goa.

Speaking to IANS, Independent MLA Aleixo Lourenco (from Salcete) said that Goans don't vote for a party, they vote for an individual.

"The results of the last Assembly elections have proved it. Notion of Congress means Christian is faded. It is not there now. At the end of the day in politics nothing is permanent. If BJP does well then people will vote for BJP, if it doesn't then people will not vote. You will come to know trends in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. It will depend on who is the candidate," he said.

Former Fatorda MLA and General Secretary of BJP, Damodar Naik said that the Christian community is slowly coming towards the saffron party, but people will vote for individual candidates.

"In my constituency, the Christian ST members supported me as an individual and not for the party. When one person gets elected, we can't consider that the whole crunch of voters have shifted to the party. That never happens. People give more importance to individuals than to the party," Naik said.

He said that currently, Christians are getting attracted to the BJP, "but there are some hurdles..."

Naik said that there are some Hindu-dominated constituencies in Goa from where Christian candidates have won. "What this trend tells us is that people vote for individuals, in such cases BJP's vote percentage has increased."

"There is no such trend that Christians in large numbers are walking together with the BJP, but slowly it will happen. I would not say that Christians are only with the BJP, as people are also looking for new parties as an option. People also have the fear that if voted to Congress then they will switch sides," Naik said.

Former AICC Secretary Girish Chodankar said that the BJP is trying to set a narrative that Christian voters are with them. "But it is not correct. Though they robbed our MLAs and leaders that doesn't mean that people have shifted to BJP along with defectors."

"Across the nation, the BJPs 'Pick and Choose' politics has been exposed. The BJP changes their strategies as per region. Their many organisations also play a role to help them politically to achieve their agenda. They are using Christian leaders in the northeast and Goa and damage the community in more organised way in other states.

"If they had love for the Christian community, then they would have not brought notification of Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) introducing new restrictions," Chodankar added.

According to new restrictions, Goa OCIs cannot donate to temples, churches, mosques and gurdwaras and remitting funds to loved ones back in India has made difficult.

"The BJP's love for Christians is not reflected in policy decisions and also in National Education Policy or OCI notifications," Chodankar said, adding that the community has always trusted the Congress and they still are with the 'Grand Old Party'.

Savio Cutinho, former chairperson of Margao Municipal Council from Salcete, said that the BJP may have got Christian MLAs from Congress, but there is a big question whether a big chunk of Christian voters have shifted along with their MLAs.

"Few close supporters of these MLAs may have shifted to the BJP to get their works done. I don't think that all those who voted for them will be with the BJP. People have realised that BJP is showing a carrot of jobs, which is not possible to create in this financial situation of the state," Cutinho said.




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