Durga Puja, West Bengal’s most popular festival, has become a political metaphor in the poll-bound state and the deity Durga, a source of electoral salvation for leaders, who are with their backs to the wall ahead of the 2022 state Assembly elections, especially with the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress seeking to make waves in Goa.
Goa Forward party president Vijai Sardesai whose patience has been put to the test by the Congress party over possible alliance formation, has taken recourse to paying homage to Durga, invoking a ‘new dawn’.
“I have said that we have to awaken the Durga in us. Navaratri is about Durga Puja. We worship Durga mata and pray to her for something good to happen. The coming of a new dawn is a good thing,” Sardesai said.
Sardesai’s reference to a ‘new dawn’ contains a coded, oblique reference to the Trinamool Congress, which has coined a new political slogan specially for Goa called ‘Goenchi Navi Sakal’ (Goa’s New Dawn). Posters and banners by the hundreds have gone up in Goa over the last two weeks tomtoming the political slogan — styled on the lines of ‘khela hobe’ slogan during the West Bengal polls — with a photograph of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Sardesai’s political position is a peculiar one. His Goa Forward won three seats (including Sardesai himself) in the state Assembly polls in 2017 on an anti-BJP plank, but joined the BJP soon after the election results were announced. Sardesai was, however, sacked from the cabinet soon after then Chief Minister late Manohar Parrikar’s death in office in 2019 by Pramod Sawant, who replaced Parrikar in the top seat.
Facing the 2022 polls, Goa Forward appears to have been reduced to the status of a political pariah, with the Congress not seemingly eager to ally with it.
Sardesai argues that the Congress has a dichotomous approach while dealing with his party and vis a vis alliances.
“On the one hand they say that we want to form an alliance, while in the papers we hear (statements like) we will contest all 40 seats. They are telling us one thing privately, on the other hand they say something else publicly. One leader speaks one language, state-level leaders say something else,” Sardesai said.
“This sort of inconsistency and lack of direction of the opposition party makes us hostage to a situation where by default this government can come back again. So we have to be very conscious and I am willing to make any sacrifice to ensure that the BJP does not come back to power in Goa,” he added.
Sardesai also claims that he is in talks with other parties as well as Indian-Political Action Committee’s Prasant Kishor, who is the chief political strategist for Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress.
“I had met Prashant Kishor earlier, I have told you that. Everybody is in touch with everyone. This is election season. We have to look for options 100 per cent. We cannot rest idle and allow this government to rule for another five years,” said Sardesai, who was a part of the BJP-led alliance government from 2017-2019.
Sardesai is not the only politician who is keen on an association with the Trinamool. Sitting Nationalist Congress Party MLA Churchill Alemao, who contested on a Trinamool ticket in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, is also dropping political references identical to the one’s coined by Trinamool’s biggest Goa catch, former Congress Chief Minister Luizinho Faleiro.
“Me and Mamata Banerjee were MPs together. We know each other. We will see how politics plays out,” Alemao, also a former Chief Minister, said.
“If all four Congresses, Nationalist Congress Party, Trinamool Congress, YSR Congress and the Congress join together, it will bode well,” Alemao said.
Last month, soon after joining the Trinamool, Faleiro had said that the Congress, with its breakaway units was a “divided house”, but added that his objective was to bring the breakaway groups together to take on the BJP.