In an attempt to get the attention of the Bhandari community, the largest chunk of consolidated OBCs, Aam Aadmi Party has announced Amit Palekar as its chief ministerial candidate. Palekar is a lawyer and a social activist and belongs to the Bhandari Community.
Arvind Kejriwal’s polemic has reinvigorated the historical wound of lack of representation, the Bhandari community have had in Goa politics. AAP failed to get even a single seat in the 2017 assembly elections is trying its luck by materialising on the suppressed political aspirations for representation amid the Bhandari community.
Until last week, AAP was promising on the ‘Delhi governance’ model replication in Goa. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia took a sharp turn last week in a press conference where he announced that the chief ministerial candidate would be from the Bhandari community.
Explain the reason behind such a decision Manish Sisodia said, “During this time (since Liberation) there have been chief ministers from various samaj(s) — Brahmin, Maratha Gomantak samaj, Catholics. But from the Bhandari samaj, there was only one chief minister, Ravi Naik for two and a half years…You are aware that the majority of people are from the Bahujan samaj and among the OBCs the Bhandari’s are a majority.”
However, AAP is not the only party vying to appease this community. Trinamool Congress’ Abhishek Banerjee during the election campaign was seen offering at the Rudreshwar temple, the patron deity of the Bhandari community.
Congress which is trying to save itself from the slurry of resignation from the legislators has also focused on keeping a Bhandari’s face. Girish Chodankar, the head of Goa Congress is busy salvaging the party crisis on the ground.
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party has several leaders from the same community in their party but they have not announced a candidate from this community
The history of lack of representation
The first elected chief minister of Goa, Dayanand Bandodkar gave rise to Bahujan politics in Goa. Bandodkar and his part Maharastrawadi Gomantak Party radically transformed the status of oppressed caste communities in the state. He architected the move for Goa to have its identity and not merge with Maharashtra.
He bought visible structural and institutional changes in the state. Under his policy formation, 200 primary schools were made between 1964-65. This number further increased to 900 in 1967. He also bought revolutionary land reforms and promised land to the tiller.
What happened to the state that spearheaded Bahujan politics?
In an article written by Kaustubh Naik for The Quint, he has explained the rising angst of the community that is 30-35 per cent of the population on Goa which has had representation in Goa politics.
There was a transition in Goan politics in terms of the community that came to the forefront of its politics. In the 2000s, Manohar Parrikar emerged as a leader representing Goa along with Digambar Kamat, both from the Saraswat caste, which is Hindu Brahmins of the Konkan region. It also saw Pratapsingh Rane, a wealthy chief minister for a brief period.
According to Naik, Parrikar’s ascendancy in the Goan political landscape and his obstruction of any rising Bahujan leadership (even within his own party) tainted its relationship with the community and strengthened the community’s ambition to come into the political discourse of Goa.
The bare-minimum policies by Parrikar were used to make him a leader who transgressed his caste affiliation. In 2017, Parrikar took it on himself to dilute the revolutionary tenancy act of 1964. This move was criticised heavily by the Bahujan community. It was seen as Parrikar’s attempt of erasing the legacy of Bandodkar.
After Parrikar’s demise, BJP has been scrambling for leadership that has an equal magnanimity. But it is evident that it is evident to give space to a Bahujan leader.
Like any other state in India, the caste dynamics in Goa has its influence over the politics of the state. AAP has been criticised for making it a caste battle by announcing a Bhandari candidate but if will consolidate the votes of the community for them can’t be answered.