Pitted against BJP is Congress' Atanasio Monserrate and Goa Suraksha Manch's Subhash Velingkar
The two Lok Sabha seats in Goa went to polls during the third phase of the general elections on April 23. However, for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress, the battle is not over yet.
After the death of long-time Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on March 17, the Panaji assembly seat represented by him fell vacant. Polling for Panaji is now scheduled for May 19, in the last phase of the Lok Sabha polls.
According to reports, the saffron party is feeling the absence of Parrikar, who had won the seat for the first time in 1994. He had held on to the seat— and the state— till 2014, when he was brought to Delhi as defence minister.
The bypoll following Parrikar's resignation was won by Sidharth Kuncalienker, who had retained the seat in 2017 assembly elections. Kuncalienker had subsequently vacated the seat for Parrikar, who had resigned as defence minister to return to Goa politics. Parrikar had won the seat by more than 4,000 votes.
Panaji is being labelled as a battle of prestige for the BJP, and for good reason. Panaji had always been Parrikar's turf, and the late CM reportedly did not have to put in a lot of effort to win from here during the 2017 bypoll. With Parrikar's absence, however, BJP leaders have reportedly stated that it would take considerable effort to win the Goa capital.
"Manohar Parrikar's absence and the vacuum of his experience is felt not just in Panaji elections, but in elections across the country," Dattaprasad Naik, a BJP leader in Goa, told Moneycontrol.
"As for finding it difficult, we have been in touch with the people of Panaji irrespective of elections, that will benefit us," Naik said, adding that the party would like to win Panaji and dedicate it to Parrikar.
Before BJP gave a ticket to Kuncalienker, there was speculation that Parrikar's son, Utpal, would get the ticket. Kuncalienker's eventual nomination gave rise to the speculation that Utpal was upset with the party.
BJP's Goa unit has stated that the opposition is trying to create a rift within the party by using Utpal's name. The opposition in Goa, meanwhile, has stated that Kuncalienker was given the ticket because Goa CM Pramod Sawant and Kuncalienker have a "setting".
Pitted against BJP is Congress' Atanasio Monserrate, who has been accused of rape; and Subhash Velingkar, former Goa chief of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Velingkar now heads Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM).Currently, the BJP has 14 members in the assembly, as does Congress. Three Independent MLAs and three Goa Forward Party (GFP) lawmakers support the BJP government.