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Manohar Parrikar files papers for Panaji bypoll, Congress finally finds a candidate

LiveMint logoLiveMint 02-08-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday filed his nomination for the Panaji assembly by-election scheduled on 23 August. Parrikar is not a member of the 40-member Goa assembly and needs to get elected within six months of being sworn in as chief minister. He took office in March.

In the Goa assembly elections in February, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee Siddharth Kuncalienker had defeated his United Goans Party (UGP) rival Atanasio Monserrate in Panaji by a little more than 1,000 votes. Kuncalienker has since resigned to make way for Parrikar and Monserrate has joined the Goa Forward Party (GFP) which is part of the BJP-led coalition ruling the coastal state. In the 2012 assembly polls, Parrikar was elected from Panaji.

With only four days left to file the nominations, the Congress on Wednesday decided to field All India Congress Committee’s secretary and its Goa politician Girish Chodankar for the seat. The Congress also decided to nominate Roy Naik, son of Ponda legislator Ravi Naik, from the Valpoi constituency from where Goa health minister Vishwajit Raje is seeking re-election. Rane was elected as Congress legislator in February but quit the party to join the BJP. Rane had filed his nomination Monday.

In May, when Kuncalienkar quit the Panaji seat paving way for Parrikar, the Congress promised to make it a tough battle. For the Congress, the bypoll in Panaji, where Kuncalienkar had scraped through, came as a chance too early on in Parrikar’s fourth term as the chief minister, to get even with the BJP for forming the government in Goa despite winning only 13 seats as against the Congress party’s 17.

Congress leaders in Goa issued statements saying that the party would pose a stiff challenge to both Parrikar and Rane in their constituencies. However, the prolonged struggle to find credible candidates, especially the Panaji nominee, has undermined the Congress challenge, according to a party functionary in Goa. “Our struggle to find the right candidate in Panaji has been a joke not befitting the stature of a national party we are. We zeroed in on three candidates, none of them our own, and have finally selected fourth who is mercifully our man. The election result is a foregone conclusion if this is the nature of fight,” said a bitter Congress legislator in Goa, requesting anonymity.

The Congress party’s first choice for Panaji was Monserrate who has a considerable following in the Goa capital. After Monserrate joined GFP, the Congress considered high court lawyer Surendra Desai, who refused to contest. The Congress then fancied fielding former BJP member Ashok Naik against Parrikar and even made him an offer. But two days back, Naik also refused to fight on a Congress ticket. “It was wrong in the first place to think of a non-Congressmen to fight our battle. Why would these people fight our battle with Parrikar?” asked the Congress legislator.

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