Goa, located by the vast expanse of the Arabian sea,
is India’s smallest state. Until a few years ago, Goa’s only place in the
popular imagination was of beautiful beaches and permissive social rules. But
heading into the Assembly elections 2022, Goa has turned into a melting pot of
political aspirations.

The 40-seat Goa Assembly was largely controlled by
local political forces and the Indian National Congress (INC) once. It was in
the 2000s when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) started gaining a foothold in
the state.

The 2022 Assembly elections in Goa will see a pitched
battle primarily between the BJP and the Congress, with local parties such as
the Maharashtra Gomantak Party (MGP) playing supporting roles.

Goa will see three new parties attempt to gain
significance in the state. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has long eyed the coastal
state and sought to bring it under its sphere of influence. The Arvind
Kejriwal-led Delhi-based party has named Amit Palekar as its chief ministerial

The other two new parties attempting to find a
foothold are the West Bengal-based Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC)
and the Revolutionary Goans — a party that claims to “preserve the rights
of persons of Goan origin. “

Also Read | Shiv Sena hopes to make inroads in Goa with ‘sons of soil’ agenda

The Trinamool Congress’ team in Goa was led by Mahua Moitra,
the vocal MP who often makes waves with her scathing critiques of the Union
government. After drawing an enthusiastic response initially, the party’s hopes
fizzled to a large extent after new joinees quickly moved out.

The BJP, in power in Goa since 2012, is pinning its
hopes on sitting chief minister Pramod Sawant. Sawant, 48, an Ayurvedic doctor,
was called upon to fill the shoes of one of Goa’s tallest leaders and former
Union minister Manohar Parrikar who passed away in 2019. This time, Sawant is
leading BJP’s poll charge.

Also Read | Manohar Parrikar’s son Utpal to contest as independent from Panaji

The Congress, in its characteristic manner, has not
named a chief ministerial candidate. However, the grand old party and its
leader Rahul Gandhi have pledged eternal vigilance to prevent a repeat of the
2017 Assembly polls.

In 2017, the Congress won 17 seats in the 40-member
Assembly while the BJP won 13. However, BJP’s swift-footed political manoeuvring,
spearheaded by Amit Shah and Nitin Gadkari, ensured that the BJP came to power
by forging a slew of unlikely alliances.

Also Read | Goa: Cong candidates take ‘anti-defection’ oath in Rahul Gandhi’s presence

Rahul Gandhi, addressing a media conference in Margao
on Friday, accused the BJP of stealing the mandate in 2017. He exuded
confidence that the Congress will win the polls in Goa and said the party will
act swiftly to form the government this time.

Gandhi also lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s
comments on the “liberation of Goa.” Modi, addressing a campaign rally in
Mapusa, said it took the Congress government 15 years to liberate Goa from
Portuguese rule because India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
wanted to protect his “global image.”

Also Read | ‘What if there was no Congress?’ Modi cites Gandhi to rip into Grand Old Party

Rahul Gandhi, who is the great grandson of Nehru — one
of the foremost freedom fighters in India’s struggle for independence from the
British — said, “PM Modi does not understand the history of those times, he
does not know what was going on post World War II.”