For the first time in Goa’s political history, Delhi-based Aam Aadmi Party tried to play caste-card publicly by trying to woo the Bhandari community, the largest one among all. But Arvind Kejriwal’s political strategy to project even ‘Bhandari Chief Minister’ failed miserably. Even the nine candidates the party fielded could not attract community votes and not a single candidate, including the CM-candidate Amit Palekar, could win the Assembly election 2022.
Goans this time sent to the state Assembly four MLAs, who belonged to the Bhandari community. However, they achieved victory either due to their personal charisma or the party’s goodwill. Certainly not because they belonged to the Bhandari community.
Ravi Naik (Ponda) and Subhash Shirodkar (Shiroda), both the ministers now, got elected on the BJP tickets. Jeet Arolkar (Mandrem) won on the MGP’s ticket. The fourth one is Viresh Borkar, who opened the account of Revolutionary Goans from St Andre, with an overwhelming support of Christian community rather than his own community. In fact all four of them polled less number of votes than the Bhandaris enrolled as voters in their respective constituencies.
FATE OF BHANDARI MLAS IN 2022 ASSEMBLY POLL
|Viresh Borkar||St Andre||35%||33%|
Maximum number of six Bhandari candidates (out of total eight) contested from Shiroda constituency in Ponda taluka. They altogether polled 97 per cent votes while Bhandaris comprised 40 per cent voters in this constituency. The main battle was also between two bigwigs, who belonged to the Bhandari community: Subhash Shirodkar of the BJP (33% votes) and Mahadev Naik of the AAP (25%).
Equally fierce battle was also witnessed between two supposedly Bhandari candidates in Mandrem: Jeet Arolkar of the MGP (35%) and former BJP MLA Dayanand Sopte (33%), besides another Bhandari candidate Deepak Kalangutkar of the Goa Forward Party (6%). There were altogether nine candidates. The northernmost constituency has 40 per cent Bhandaris.
Viresh Borkar of the RG (33%) triumphed from among total seven candidates, out of which only Ramarao Wagh of the AAP also belonged to the Bhandari community. He polled only seven per cent votes.
Ravi Naik of the BJP did not have any rival in Ponda from within his Bhandari community. Still he polled the lowest among the four so-called Bhandari MLAs: only 29 per cent votes while the town has 35 per cent Bhandaris.
51 BHANDARIS CONTESTED 22 SEATS
Total 51 candidates from among the 301 candidates were Bhandaris. They contested from 22 constituencies. Roughly, the voting population of Bhandari community in these constituencies is as follows:
50% (1 constituency): Mayem.
40% (6): Mandrem, Tivim, Siolim, Saligao, Madkai & Shiroda.
35% (6): Aldona, St Cruz, St Andre, Cumbarjua, Ponda & Mormugao.
30% (3): Mapusa, Sankhli & Priol.
25% (1): Madgao.
20% (3): Cortalim, Dabolim & Fatorda.
10% (2): Valpoi & Canacona.
FATE OF PARTY-WISE BHANDARI CANDIDATES
IRONY OF BHANDARI POLITICS
The hype of the Bhandari community was created not by the Aam Aadmi Party but by the political activists of the Gomantak Bhandari Samaj, the official organisation of the community in Goa. These politicians had gathered around their premier organisation in order to pressurise all the political parties to field Bhandari candidates. But the seasoned parties like the Congress, the MGP and even the BJP, gave proper representation to all the communities while fielding candidates but did not project them as community candidates. Most of these parties follow the Bahujan Formula laid down by Goa’s first chief minister Bhausaheb Bandodkar. Give proper representation to all the communities and religions while selecting the candidates and constituting the cabinet. But face the electorate as one Bahujan entity, and not on the basis of any caste or religion.
The new parties like Delhi-based Aam Aadmi Party or West Bengal-based All India Trinamool Congress however fell prey to the desperate attempts of overambitious politicians from among the Bhandari community and played the caste card. AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal even visited the Samaj office and then projected Adv Amit Palekar as the CM-candidate. In response, banners were put up all over Goa, welcoming the AAP announcement of Bhandari CM.
But the sensible and educated Goan voter belonging to the Bhandari community simply did not bother to respond to the community card. They preferred to follow the political tradition of weighing the candidates on other criterias, but neither caste or religion.
This was clearly witnessed all across Goa. Mayem is the constituency having the largest number of Bhandari community. Half of its 25,000 voter-population is Bhandari. It had two Bhandari candidates: Rajesh Kalangutkar of AAP and independent candidate Deepkumar Mapari. The AAP candidate could poll hardly eight per cent votes (2084) while another independent polled 0.35 per cent votes (89).
Nearly 12 out of 22 constituencies, from where Bhandaris contested, polled less number of votes than the Bhandari population. Chief minister Dr Pramod Sawant’s Sankhli constituency comprises almost 30 per cent Bhandari. It had four Bhandari candidates, who altogether polled only two per cent votes. Each one did not poll even one per cent votes. In fact the Bhandari-promoter AAP’s candidate Manojkumar Ghadi polled hardly 0.42 per cent votes (109).
BHANDARI CANDIDATES, VOTES & VOTERS % (2022)
THE AAP FIASCO
This was the second blunder the AAP created in the second election they contested. In 2017, AAP had projected former bureaucrat Elvis Gomes as the CM-candidate while targeting the Christian vote bank. Since this strategy did not attract even seven per cent votes and a single seat, Gomes was sidelined by the Delhi leadership. On the eve of the 2022 election, state convenor Gomes quit the AAP and joined the Congress. He lost the poll in Panaji.
Even after the AAP has now made a debut in the Assembly with two MLAs from Benaulim (Capt Venzy Viegas) and Velim (Cruz Silva), state convenor Rahul Mahambrey has quit the party, criticising the party policy of ‘Bhandari-CM and Christian-DyCM’. He also lost the election from Mapusa, polling hardly seven per cent votes. In spite of winning two seats this time, the AAP once again could not cross seven per cent votes.
Among the 39 candidates, AAP had fielded nine Bhandari candidates and 11 Christians, including its CM-candidate Amit Palekar. In spite of having 35 per cent Bhandaris and one third of Christian population, he could garner hardly 18 per cent votes. St Cruz had no other Bhandari candidate.
STATE OF BHANDARI CANDIDATES OF APP: 2022 POLL
|Amit Palekar||St Cruz||35%||18%|
|Ramrao Wagh||St Andre||35%||7%|
The biggest blow the AAP received was the Mayem constituency where half of its population belongs to the Bhandari community. It consists of 25,488 voters, which means not less than 12,000 are Bhandaris. But the party’s Bhandari candidate Rajesh Kalangutkar could poll only 2084 votes. It is difficult to state that all these votes belong to his community since Goans don’t vote on caste lines.
Similarly, Mahadev Naik polled 25 per cent votes, the highest among all the nine Bhandari candidates of the AAP. He lost the election in spite of the constituency having 40 per cent Bhandaris. The former minister and two-time BJP MLA did not succeed in capitalising the Bhandari card of his party. In spite of having over 10,000 community votes in Shiroda, Naik could poll hardly 6133 votes.
Dabolim constituency could also be another lesson to learn for the AAP. In the last Assembly poll of 2017, Premanand Nansokar as the MGP candidate had polled 4740 votes (27%). Now as the Bhandari candidate of the AAP, his vote share slipped down to 2533 (14%), nearly half. This suburb of Goa’s port town has 20 per cent Bhandari voters. Perhaps they preferred victorious BJP minister Mauvin Godinho of the BJP (41%) and Capt Vitriato Fernandes (32%) of the Congress. Even Gajanan Borkar, the RG candidate belonging to the Bhandari community, could not garner more than 1129 votes (6%).
The so-called community voters also did not respond positively to the caste-card played by the AAP in St Andre and Cumbarjua constituencies, which consists of 35 per cent of Bhandaris. St Andre’s AAP contestant Dr Ramrao Wagh, brother of former BJP MLA late Vishnu Surya Wagh, could poll hardly 1122 votes (7%). In Cumbarjua, AAP candidate Gorakhnath Kerkar also polled only 1022 votes (5%).
AAP, who claims to be the secular party, fielded nine Bhandari candidates. None of them won the election. On an average, the party gained not even 10 per cent votes in these nine constituencies from this whole Bhandari exercise of playing the community card to win the elections. Similar was the fate of other AAP candidates, who could not attract the Bhandaris to win the election.
BHANDARI CANDIDATES IN 2022 ASSEMBLY ELECTION OF GOA
|7||VIRESH BORKAR||St Andre||RGP||33|
|14||AMIT PALEKAR||St Cruz||AAP||18|
|28||RAMRAO WAGH||St Andre||AAP||7|