Alarm Bells for BJP in India's Goa as Scores of Christian Politicians Desert Party Ahead of Polls

© AFP 2022 / PRAKASH SINGH A supporter of Indian Prime Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Leader Narendra Modi uses binoculars (File)
A supporter of Indian Prime Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Leader Narendra Modi uses binoculars (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.01.2022
The legislative assembly elections in the coastal state of Goa are due to be held on 14 February. Last time, the ruling BJP won 13 seats, while Congress won 17. Despite winning more seats Congress couldn't form a government as the BJP managed to form an alliance with the Goa Forward Party and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party.
India's federally ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appears to be in trouble in the poll-bound state of Goa as scores of BJP politicians from the Christian community are bidding adieu to the group just ahead of assembly elections next month.
On 10 January, member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) and minister in the BJP government Michael Lobo resigned from his post and the party.
He, along with his wife and former chief of the party's women wing Delilah Lobo, joined the BJP's main rival - Congress.
If media reports are to be believed, Lobo was upset with the party over the ticket distribution for the assembly polls. He was lobbying for a ticket for his wife Delilah from the Siolim constituency while the party was keen to field other candidates.
The Calangute lawmaker is a strong leader from north Goa and is believed to hold sway in at least five to six constituencies.
Defending his move, Lobo said: "Voters are telling me that the BJP is not a party of the common people any more. The common party worker has no importance in the party now".
Another BJP lawmaker, Praveen Zantye, from the Mayem constituency also resigned on 10 January.
Lobo and Zantye, however, are not the only BJP lawmakers from the Christian community to have left the party. Last month, a lawmaker from the Cartolim constituency, Alina Saldanha, quit the BJP. While Alina joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), another lawmaker from the Christian community Carlos Almeida from the Vasco constituency quit the BJP and joined Congress.
Speculation is rife that Velim lawmaker and minister in the state government Filipe Neri Rodriguez and Nuvem lawmaker Wilfred D'Sa, alias Babashan, may also quit the BJP soon.
The main reason behind these legislators quitting the BJP is said to be the discomfort of contesting elections on a BJP ticket. These lawmakers come from Christian-dominated constituencies, where the BJP has had little support base. Fearing the outcome, these politicians are trying to explore their luck in other parties like Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, or Trinamool Congress.
Sputnik spoke with political analyst Sanjeev Kaushik about the reasons behind the exodus of Christian politicians from Goa's ruling party - the BJP, its impact on the party's electoral strategy, and how the party can stop this.
Kaushik points out that such defections are quite common during polls and there are several reasons why politicians shift their loyalties.
"As far as the exodus of politicians from the Christian community from the BJP in Goa is concerned, I think the main reason is that they have understood that the situation this time is very different from 2017", he says.
Stating that it is well-known that the BJP is the party of the majority class (Hindus) while Christians are a minority, he says: "Apart from this, in the southern part of the country, the BJP has been accusing the Christian community of carrying out religious conversion and attacking them".
"So, this might be one of the main reasons [behind people leaving the party]", he states.
Citing another reason, Kaushik says that these politicians might also be defecting from the BJP because of the corruption charges against State Chief Pramod Sawant.
He notes the mass defections could prove to be a headache for the saffron party, although the BJP-led government is putting up a brave front.
State Chief Pramod Sawant, however, is undeterred by the defections.
"The Bharatiya Janata Party is a big family that continues to serve the motherland with full devotion. A few defections, to fulfill the agenda of greed and personal interests cannot deter our agenda of Good Governance", Sawant had tweeted after Lobo's resignation.
However, Kaushik said that this might prove detrimental to the BJP since if lawmakers who won the previous elections leave the party, their supporters will surely move out along with them and "it will have an impact on neighbouring constituencies as well".
"Whenever a politician with a mass base moves from one party to another, he drives a huge voter base too. Therefore, the exodus of scores of politicians belonging to the Christian community will be a huge blow to the BJP", he added.
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