Catholics' dilemma: Demoralised with Congress, wary of BJP

No one puts it better than cardiologist Francisco Colaço. “People are demoralised with the Congress. If we bring them back to power, it’s like giving them carte blanche to carry on with corruption.”

Corruption has come to be identified with the Congress and the Church too is fed up with the situation, he says.

The 28 per cent Catholic vote has been the electoral trump card the Congress has come to take for granted in Goa. With a palpable undercurrent of disenchantment and anti-incumbency in the air, a section of minority sentiment could swing the BJP way. Even a three per cent swing, could make a big difference to the saffron campaign, poll watchers say.

Winning over the Catholics has been a big factor in BJP leader Manohar Parrikar’s strategy in this election. Earlier this week, the saffron party’s most prominent face came calling at Colaço’s old-world family residence in Margao. The meeting had been set up through an acquaintance in the UK. “He said he was sorry for what had happened when he was in power, and wanted to put it all behind us,” Colaço told Deccan Herald.

Mending fences with the cardiologist —a trenchant critic of the BJP’s RSS agenda in Goa – and knocking the doors of other prominent Catholics in South Goa was just a small part of the win-over-the-minorities agenda. Parrikar also publicly apologised for cancelling holidays on Good Friday and the feast of St Francis Xavier when he ran the government.
Saying he had been ill-advised, he promised to do things differently this time.

The BJP has fielded a record (for the saffron party) five Catholic candidates. But that alone may not suffice to get the minorities to stamp on the lotus. Colaço says he is uncomfortable with Parrikar to this day because of the shadow of “Big Brother RSS” over him.

A prominent businessman said there was a palpable sense that upper crust Catholics “who perceive themselves as more Brahmin than Catholic” were out to teach the Congress a lesson. They want to give Parrikar another chance. But they constitute but a small minority of the vote, he said.

Deep in the heart of South Goa, voters are also wary that a BJP comeback would reverse the government’s decision to allow aid to English medium primary schools.

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