Since joining the Trinamool Congress (TMC) on October 29, tennis icon Leander Paes has become the party’s face in Goa, doing rounds of the state and meeting with citizens across the social spectrum. In these meetings, he frequently highlights his Goan roots, insisting he is a son-of-the-soil who might have been away from the state, but not from its culture. His father, Vece Paes, is from Assolna in Velim constituency, a Congress bastion till 2017.
Paes has been focusing on the issues like unemployment, women’s safety and mining. He has spent considerable time with members of the fishing community, a major group in Velim. That Paes has been chosen as the TMC’s ace in the hole is evident from the micro-management of his schedule by the Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC), political strategist Prashant Kishor’s outfit. Close to 20 volunteers have been deployed to support his daily engagements.
The effort appears to be paying off—the TMC has gained notable publicity with Paes’s celebrity status and simplicity, despite some seeing him as a “Kolkata boy” or a “Mumbai lad”. Apart from his own contest, Paes might be deployed to boost the TMC’s chances in seven Catholic-dominated constituencies in south Goa. His immediate rival could be four-term MLA Felipe Neri Rodrigues, the water resources minister, who switched over to the BJP from the Congress in 2018. The TMC’s chances—it is already dubbed as an outsider party—depend heavily on Paes’s success.
When he returned from the US in 2012 after spending nine years working with a software company, Utpal Parrikar had only one goal—to live with his father Manohar Parrikar and manage the family’s manufacturing unit. His life changed on March 17, 2018 when his father died after a prolonged illness. Initially reluctant to join politics, Utpal has emerged as a strong contender to carry forward his father’s legacy in their home turf, Panaji. He has announced his candidature without waiting for an official nod from the BJP.
Utpal has started meeting people of Panaji hoping to get an election ticket from the BJP. He has made it a practice to sit in an office near the iconic Mahalakshmi temple twice a week and attend public gatherings. He also managed to show his strength by putting up hoardings of himself and gathering his supporters while welcoming BJP president J.P. Nadda on November 30.
As the BJP appears to be leaning toward fielding controversial sitting MLA Atanasio Monserrate, a weathervane who switched over from the Congress in 2019, Utpal’s progress will be closely watched. He hopes to get sympathy from BJP supporters as well as members of the dominant Saraswat community in Panaji, a BJP bastion till 2018. Loyal BJP workers are likely to be displeased if Utpal is denied a ticket. That might hamper the party’s fortunes in the other three adjoining constituencies of north Goa too. However, if Utpal gets the ticket, Monserrate could turn rebel, damaging the BJP’s prospects in two constituencies, Taliegao and Santacruz.
When she married into the politically influential Rane family in the late 1990’s, Divya was a medical professional and active in social work—she had conducted an AIDS awareness programme with a local organisation in north Goa’s Sattari taluka. She ended her medical career about 15 years ago, to take care of her children. Her father-in-law, Pratapsingh Rane, a two-term chief minister, has been the longest serving MLA in India since 1972. Her politically ambitious husband Vishwajit is also a force to be reckoned with.
Sources say Vishwajit had mulled fielding Divya on a BJP ticket from Poriem, a constituency his father nurtured for over 50 years. However, the plan might change, as the Congress announced Pratapsinh Rane as its candidate from Poriem on December 22. Now, Vishwajit might contest against his father from there and shift Divya to Valpoi, his current constituency. Divya has already launched a mass connect program in Poriem. Divya has already started a mass contact programme, and likely hopes to win because of being the daughter-in-law of Rane, who comes from a royal family.
Divya’s success or failure will be a key factor in Vishwajit’s claim to the CM’s chair after the election. If the BJP falls short of simple majority, Vishwajit could bargain for the CM’s chair in return for backing from Divya and other MLAs. If Divya gets a BJP ticket, Vishwajit, who had switched to the BJP from the Congress within a week of the election results being declared in March 2017, will become dominant in the party.
Manoj Parab founded the Revolutionary Goan (RG) party in 2017 after his departure from the Aam Admi Party. He came into the limelight in April this year when RG members managed to force the Goa government to change its plans for an IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) campus in the dense forest of Shel-Melaulim on environmental concerns. Parab’s entry into politics was impressive too—on November 15, he announced at a rally in Panaji that RG members would contest on the tickets of the Goa Su-Raj Party, a dormant political outfit. Attended by close to 20,000 people, it was the first major political debut in the state after Arvind Kejriwal’s show in 2016.
A staunch advocate of ‘Goa for Goans only’ Parab has been campaigning against migrants, saying “they are eating the locals’ pie in employment”. He has proposed a bill called the POGO (People of Goan Origin) Bill to safeguard the locals’ interests. His posters across north Goa and the flood of supporters on social media have made political pundits take notice. However, most of his social media followers are settled outside Goa.
If the Goa Su-Raj Party opens an account in the state Assembly it will be a new beginning for the politics of Goan pride. Earlier, the Goa Forward Party (GFP) tried to contesting on the same plank, but failed to make a mark.
Delilah Lobo and her husband Michael Lobo entered politics around 15 years ago at the gram panchayat level in Parra, the home town of late Manohar Parrikar. Michael rapidly climbed the ladder of power, with blessings from Parrikar. Now, as minister for port and waste management, he has gained a considerable clout in at least three constituencies—Calangute, Siolim and Saligao. Michael wants Delilah to contest the Assembly election from Siolim on a BJP ticket. He has made it clear that she will contest even if the BJP denies her a ticket, like it did in 2017.
At present, Delilah is sarpanch of Parra, in Michael’s constituency, Calangute. That she has taken her candidacy seriously is evident in her mass contact programmes. She recently opened an office in Siolim, announcing her arrival. Her campaign is focused on providing loans to women self-help groups and scholarships for students.
If Delilah campaigns as an independent, it is likely to damage the BJP in all three constituencies. Michael already has hinted that he might join the Congress if Delilah is denied her “deserving candidature”. Michael has clout in Saligao too. BJP workers in Saligao are already upset with the entry of GFP MLA Jayesh Salgaonkar. If Delilah does not get a ticket, Michael is likely to fuel rebellion in the BJP’s Saligao unit, like he did against then BJP candidate Dilip Parulekar in 2017.