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Assembly Polls: Goa Likely To Witness 3-Cornered Contest

Panaji: The Goa Assembly elections are likely to be a three-pronged fight with the ruling BJP, opposition Congress and new entrant AAP pitted against each other in the coastal state.

While the Manohar Parrikar-led BJP had won in the 2012 elections in alliance with Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), this time it has been abandoned by its political friends who have now ganged up against it.

Hence, the BJP has decided to go to the polls on its own for he Assembly elections scheduled to be held on February 4.

As per a recent announcement, the party will contest in 37 out of the total 40 seats. In the remaining three constituencies under Salcette taluka, which has a Catholic stronghold, it will support the Independents.

Departing from its 2012 strategy when it had announced Manohar Parrikar as the chief ministerial face before seeking votes, the BJP this time has said that the elected members will chose their leader.

Standing alone, the BJP has covered majority of the ground through its ‘Vijay Sankalp’ rallies, which have been addressed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, in 35 constituencies of the state.

The BJP, which has seen steady growth in the coastal state, has its strength in the robust organisational set up which percolates to every booth level.

BJP Goa chief Vinay Tendulkar recently said that the party is confident of winning over 26 seats on its own.

“We are fighting this election on the plank of good governance and development. We have shown the people that BJP means development,” he said.

But according to political experts, it would have been an easy election for BJP if its ally MGP had not split with it and the medium of instruction issue had not given rise to another political outfit – Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) led by RSS rebel Subhash Velingkar.

The three pro-Hindutva outfits – MGP, GSM and Shiv Sena – may eat into the votes of BJP and are likely to give the ruling party a tough challenge in several constituencies.

MGP leader Sudin Dhavalikar is slated to be projected as the chief ministerial candidate by these parties, which are likely to tie-up soon.

The MGP split with the BJP on January 5, a day after election dates were announced.

Dhavalikar has exuded confidence that his party will form government in Goa, in alliance with GSM and Shiv Sena.

“BJP will be wiped out from the state. For the 2012 elections, majority of the seats were won by BJP with the support of MGP. BJP would not have won 21 seats on their own without MGP,” he claimed recently.

For the Congress party, Goa elections are an important opportunity to salvage its political fortunes which sunk to the lowest level during the 2012 state polls.

Realising the ground reality, the Congress, after initial reluctance, is now ready to forge a pre-poll alliance with like-minded parties like Goa Forward, NCP and Atanasio Monserratte-led United Goans Party, in few constituencies.

The party is expected to announce about its alliance on January 10.

After a humiliating defeat in 2012 when it was reduced to a single digit party (of 9 legislators) in Goa Assembly, its Goa unit chief Luizinho Faleiro and All India Congress Committee secretary Girish Chodankar have been trying to bring the party back into a position to fight the polls.

Independent legislator Vijai Sardesai-led Goa Forward Party is likely to form an alliance with Congress, which may pose a formidable opposition to the BJP in the state. Interestingly, the Congress has made promises similar to the ones made by BJP during 2012 polls.

“The BJP’s promises of zero tolerance to corruption, drugs and prostitution have been a failure. We want ethical tourism and not drugs, prostitution and casinos in the name of promoting tourism in the state,” Mr Faleiro said recently.

“At the same time, we will ensure protection of environment and ecology,” he said.

Mr Faleiro himself is in the election fray this time, contesting from the Navelim constituency.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party has also been trying to make an impact on the coastal state’s polity.

Several groups which were neither with the BJP nor with Congress have joined AAP, which has announced former bureaucrat Elvis Gomes as its chief ministerial face.

Mr Kejriwal has in recent times made frequent visits to Goa to gear up the party rank and file for the polls.

AAP has also said that it will contest in all the 40 Assembly constituencies, and expects to repeat the ‘Delhi magic’ in Goa too.

Mr Kejriwal yesterday said that the contest would be bi-polar in the state, with AAP against others.

“BJP and Congress are having a friendly fight in the polls. But their fight is spoilt by AAP. People now have a choice,” the Delhi Chief Minister said, adding that “the fight is between the honest and the corrupt”.

PTI