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24 Feb 2019 05:51am IST
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24 Feb 2019 05:51am IST
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After the demise of former Dy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza, who was the Mapusa MLA for 20 years, the number of constituencies which would go for Assembly by-polls has risen to three. The sudden development has increased the headache for BJP, which has been trying to keep the coalition together. SURAJ NANDREKAR looks into what the by-polls mean for the saffron brigade and its partners while the Opposition Congress smells victory

After the death of Mapusa MLA Francis D’Souza, the BJP is once again back to 13, in the 40-member house of the Goa Legislative Party, a seat behind Congress which is 14. 

BJP, which had 13 elected seats after 2017, increased its tally to 14 after the Congress’ then Valpoi MLA resigned to join BJP and subsequently got elected in ensuing by-polls.

The BJP though, for now, has the support of two regional parties – MGP 3, Goa Forward 3 and Independents 3, taking the coalition number to 22.

The state is facing three by-polls following the recent demise of D’Souza in Mapusa and Congress’ former MLAs Dayanand Sopte and Subash Shirodkar resigning to join BJP.

Hence, Mandrem, Shiroda and Mapusa will go to by-polls before or along with Lok Sabha polls, which are slated in March-April.

The outcome of the polls could be crucial. If Congress wins the three seats it could stake claim to form government as their tally would increase to 17.

On the other hand, victory in three seats will further cement BJP’s place as it would become single largest party and will be relieved to an extent of frequent black-mailing by alliance partners. The victory would also take the coalition tally to 25. 

BJP’s Dilemma

The BJP played an instrumental role by engineering the resignations of two Congress MLAs Sopte and Shirodkar and hence feels it has the right to field the same candidates and coalition partners need to support the senior partner.

Similarly, in Mapusa too, the BJP feels it is a traditional party seat and has right to field their candidate.

However, the coalition partners think otherwise.

The national party’s fate, however, could be in the hands of three persons – Dipak Dhavalikar, Vijai Sardesai and their very own Laxmikant Parsekar.

MGP will fight by-polls: Dhavalikar

The first dissenting voice came from MGP president Dipak Dhavalikar soon after the two former Cong leaders resigned.

The coalition partners MGP simply refused to toe the line of their senior partner.

Dhavalikar said he will contest polls and will also field party candidate in Mandrem.

“Our fight is not against the BJP but against the politics of defection,” Dhavalikar reiterated his statement which he has made time and again.

He says the MGP central committee has taken a stand on the by-elections but is undecided on Lok Sabha polls.

"We are not betraying anyone. We are fighting against defections and defectors. Against those people who quit parties after one or two years," he said.

When asked if the MGP's decision would have an impact on the state government, Dhavalikar said that the move does not mean the party wants to destabilise the current ruling dispensation.

"We are not threatening the government, or BJP or Congress. Our issue is clear. Goa is a small state and there should not be continuous defection. It has to stop," he said.

Not only Shiroda, MGP has plans to contest Mandrem Polls and zeroed in on businessman turned politician Jit Arolkar while they are also toying with idea of contesting Mapusa by-polls.

In 2017, Vinod Phadke had contested on MGP ticket from Mapusa and had polled 4600 votes.

GF also wants to expand base

Soon after death of D’Souza, Goa Forward president and Town and Country Planning Minister Vijai Sardesai raised eyebrows with his statement that he is willing to support former leader’s son Joshua to take forward his father’s legacy.

However, couple of days later he clarified saying D’Souza was a BJP candidate and it was but natural for BJP to grant him a ticket.

“Let the BJP decide its candidate and if not then we will see. I have never said Goa Forward will give him ticket, but let us wait and see,” he had told Herald.

Vijai has also made it clear though the BJP has right to field candidates in Mandrem and Shiroda, his party will also explore options if the MGP contests polls against its own alliance partner.

Asked for his stand as of now on by-polls, Vijai says, “I have said let us wait and watch.” 

Parsekar effect in Mandrem

After having lost the Mandrem seat to Dayanand Sopte in 2017, former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar sees these by-polls as a silver lining to revive his career.

Though Parsekar had lost elections in 2017, he has good amount of support from Mandrem block of BJP.

The Mandrem block of BJP had also said that they would not back Sopte as candidate.

If BJP denies Parsekar a ticket the former Goa CM plans to contest as an independent.

“It is not my decision but the decision of the supporters. They want me to contest and I will see. I am waiting for elections to be announced and subsequent declaration of candidate by BJP,” he says.

Interestingly, Parsekar was on dais when Amit Shah had a karyakarta meeting at Bambolim on February 9.

“It is not easy to leave the party. There are many offers from other parties, which I do not want to name,” he said. 

One opines, if Parsekar contests as independent against Sopte and MGP and Congress also fields candidates it could seriously dent BJP’s prospects in the constituency.

BJP remains confident

As always, the BJP had just two statements on the coalition partners dissent saying they are confident things would fall in place. 

“We have full trust that the MGP will not contest the by-elections besides we are also optimistic about Laxmikant Parsekar, he would not go against his own party,” said BJP state president Vinay Tendulkar speaking to Herald.

"We have already informed our central leaders about MGP's announcement to contest by-elections. Our state-level leaders will speak and if that fails, then central leaders will step in," Tendulkar said.

On Vijai announcing his backing for D’Souza’s son in Mapusa, Tendulkar said, “I don’t know, he just said he is willing to support and did not say he would field Joshua on his party ticket.”

Further, he added, “Joshua needs to work for the party if he wants the ticket from Mapusa.”

BJP’s National’s Vice-president Vinay Sahastrabuddhe when contacted said, “the local leaders are dealing with the matter. The situation has not reached that level wherein the national leaders would have to step in as yet.”

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