Local Goa News

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

2017 election won’t be a cakewalk for BJP in Panaji

Panaji: Defence minister Manohar Parrikar is regarded as a hero for the ‘surgical strikes’ against Pakistan. But, in his home turf in the capital city of Goa, it is not going to be a cakewalk for his successor MLA in the ensuing assembly election as the opposition is manoeuvring to take advantage of Parrikar’s absence and wrest control over the constituency.

Since 1994, when Parrikar won the assembly seat for the first time, his winning margin has always seen a rise. Political pundits believe that he managed to keep the opposition at bay either by striking deals or hanging the sword of legal action against them.
This time, his once political ally and former education minister Atanasio Monserrate alias Babush, and his political guru and mentor, Subhash Velingkar, who broke away from the RSS, are bitter rivals for his party’s MLA in Panaji, Sidharth Kuncalienker. BJP had won the 2014 bypoll comfortably by over 6,000 votes with the support of Monserrate.
With a sizeable number of votes from the goud saraswat brahmin (GSB) community, Parrikar retained his dominance over the constituency for the last 22 years. But, he is now in a catch-22 situation with Monserrate, who has 17 councillors in the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP), and Velingkar influencing his voters over the U-turn of the BJP on the MoI issue.
Parrikar has banked on his voters by providing them government jobs, developmental works and better governance as compared to the previous MLAs. Emotional issues regarding Velingkar and Monserrate’s hold over the constituency may require the BJP to devise an effective strategy to retain its citadel in the election battlefield.
All eyes will be on the capital in the 2017 assembly election to see if Parrikar still has the magic touch to retain control over his home turf, Panaji.
Though the defence minister officially represents Lucknow, his frequent visits to Goa show that his heart and political career are rooted in the GSB -dominated constituency.
Sensing a chink in the BJP armour, the Taleigao strongman, Monserrate, has already announced his ambition to contest the forthcoming assembly election from Panaji.
Over the last couple of months, there have been a lot of political developments in Panaji. Velingkar, too, has gone against the BJP.
Looking at the GSB vote base in Panaji, the community which Parrikar belongs to, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has announced the candidature of Valmiki Naik, who also belongs to the GSB community, to contest from Panaji. While BJP still enjoys massive support in Panaji, the entry of new players in the election and the exit of Parrikar will definitely change the political equation in Panaji in the next assembly election, political observers say.
The GSB-RSS cadre combination and Parrikar’s strong Catholic supporters in Panaji have always given the BJP an advantage over the Panaji seat for six consecutive terms, including the last byelection, which was won by Sidharth Kuncalienker. He was joint secretary to the chief minister when Parrikar held the post, until the latter was elevated to the Union cabinet.
Political observers say that there is a resentment within the GSB community. The Velingkar-formed RSS Goa prant is completely against the BJP and with minorities exploring options, it would not be a cakewalk for BJP to retain the seat.
Parrikar, who still holds the key in Panaji, had to work overtime to retain the prestigious seat for the BJP, political observers say, adding that if he throws his weight behind Kuncalienker, which he will do, the BJP may retain the seat.
Monserrate, if he actually contests from Panaji, would then be a strong contender for the BJP in the assembly election as his panel is ruling the CCP. During the last CCP election, out of 22 wards in Panaji constituency, BJP won 11 wards and the Monserrate-supported panel won the rest.
During the last bypoll, Monserrate revolted against the Congress and supported the BJP at the last minute. He even announced that he would contest the 2014 byelection in Panaji. Monserrate also held meetings with Parrikar to field himself as the BJP candidate. But then, Monserrate decided to step back. He subsequently declared that he would contest the 2017 assembly poll on the development plank and charged that Parrikar failed to bring any development into the capital city since 1994.
Congress later expelled Monserate from the party. Monserrate, who went against CCP mayor Surendra Furtado in the 2014 byelection in Panaji, has now joined hands with him. The Furtado couple also contested the CCP elections on the Monserrate panel.
RSS rebels, who have a strong presence in Panaji, will definitely put up a strong candidate against BJP in Panaji as they feel that Parrikar should be taught a lesson as he ‘lied’ in the MoI issue.
Velingkar, who was once a close friend of Parrikar, has now gone completely against the defence minister on the MoI issue. He wants the BJP out of power in the state and will not leave any stone unturned to defeat BJP in Panaji, political observers say.
Some pundits said that a split in opposition votes among the Congress, Goa Suraksha Manch, Monserrate’s proposed party, AAP and others will give an upper hand to BJP to win the seat.
As there are no more claimants in the BJP for the ticket, the party is likely to renominate Kuncalienker as the party candidate for the 2017 assembly election.
The opposition, however, is likely to corner the ruling party during the assembly election. As there is not much spoken by candidates interested in contesting from Panaji constituency on casinos, political observers say they will have to come out with a clear stand on casinos in the River Mandovi.

TOI Goa News

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