From the glorious days of being a party that decided who would form the government in Goa, the United Goans Democratic Party (UGDP) has suffered the ignominy of being de-recognised as a regional political party by the Election Commission of India, although it continues to be a registered party.
The UGDP was formed in the early 90s soon after the collapse of the Progressive Democratic Front government in Goa reviving memories of the United Goans that led the movement for the historic plebiscite held in Goa which was more popularly known as Opinion Poll primarily due to the “two leaves” symbol allotted to it.
The UGDP was taken over by Churchill Alemao and at the first elections contested by the party in 1994, three of its candidates got elected – Churchill Alemao, Antonio Gauncar and Arecio D’Souza. The party tasted a greater victory when its candidate Churchill Alemao defeated the long serving Congress MP Eduardo Faleiro at the Lok Sabha elections held subsequently.
The UGDP proved its might when at the bye elections at Benaulim following Churchill’s resignation after he was elected as the MP, its candidate Joaquim Alemao emerged victorious despite the fact that the entire government machinery was used to promote the Congress candidate Agnelo Fernandes.
In fact, the UGDP’s presence was not restricted to Goa alone and some candidates had even contested the Assembly elections under the party name, all for the sake of the symbol.
But the party fortunes have been on the wane since then, though Matanhy Saldanha and even Babush Monserrate were elected as UGDP candidates to the Goa Legislative Assembly.
The bane of the UGDP has been that none of its MLAs with the exception of Matanhy Saldanha remained loyal to the party once elected, with all of them joining the Congress whenever the opportunity presented. In fact, Matanhy was hounded for not joining the Congress when he had the opportunity and was even disqualified for his stand against the Congress Party.
It was sheer mismanagement by the party office bearers that resulted in the party losing out the important ‘two leaves’ symbol during the last Lok Sabha elections as the office bearers failed to apply for it within three days of announcement of the elections.
Its candidate Matanhy Saldanha had to settle for ‘scissors’ as the symbol and a conspiracy was alleged in this as it was believed that Radharao Gracias and Anacleto Viegas who control the party were hoping that Churchill’s daughter Valanka would contest as an independent candidate using the “two leaves” symbol.
The UGDP can still reclaim its lost symbol, provided they immediately apply for it when the next elections are announced and garner the requisite number of votes to be recognized once agaijn.