Congress toils hard to hold fort in Goa

It is 10 pm but the day’s campaign has only just begun for Churchill Alemao. After a swirl of meetings in Benaulim, where his daughter Valanka is contesting for the Congress, Alemao stops at his residence in Varca, South Goa for a quick dinner.

There is an edge of political energy around the Congress politician that is hard to miss. In a matter of minutes the hall is packed with a group of supporters who have been summoned through the local sarpanch. Despite the rumours on the streets that Alemao is struggling to retain his Navelim seat where the combined opposition has withdrawn, leaving him to face an independent Avertano Furtado said to be sponsored by his enemies within the party, his body language remains supremely confident.

“I have made and unmade MLAs, why should I not support my own daughter?” Alemao says responding to criticism of promoting a family cult in the Congress. But at this stage in the campaign it is no longer about family raaj but all about corruption in the outgoing government. And Alemao (who is PWD minister) and his brother Joaquim are seen as a part of the large Congress-NCP coterie that has carved out family-run business dominions based on graft.

“If 2007 was a horror story, then 2012 onwards under Congress rule will be a catastrophe of unbridled proportions. In the five years of its rule ministers have run amok; there has been no prosecution, when government agencies themselves have indicted criminal officials,” said the prominent doctor Oscar Rebello. His views represent the strong undercurrent of public anger and frustration with the Congress government’s pandering to the real estate and mining lobbies and the phenomenal levels of corruption in public life.

The Congress had 11 of the 17 seats in South Goa in the outgoing Assembly. It is struggling to retain seven (out of 18 after delimitation) in what is considered its stronghold where the Catholics have a major presence.

Sensing the mood of the minority community, a resurgent BJP is playing to a calculated strategy to ensure it does nothing to alienate the Catholic vote at this stage. “Where is saffron in this election? We will be more secular than the Congress,” BJP leader Manohar Parrikar said on a televised show.

Giving Parrikar free rein to convince the minorities, BJP president Nitin Gadkari has ensured both L K Advani and Narendra Modi stayed out of the Goa campaign. Gadkari will be here briefly to wrap up the  BJP campaign.

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