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Manohar Parrikar to contest bypoll from Panaji

LiveMint logoLiveMint 10-05-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar will contest a bypoll from state capital Panaji, announced the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday.

Parrikar, who took over as Goa chief minister in March, is not a member of the state assembly and has to contest a bypoll within six months of being sworn in. The election date has not been announced as yet.

Goa BJP president Vinay Tendulkar announced that Parrikar will contest the bypoll from his old constituency of Panaji. Sitting BJP MLA from Panaji and Parrikar’s protégé Siddharth Kuncalienkar will resign to make way for Parrikar’s election.

Kuncalienkar won a bypoll from Panaji in 2014 when Parrikar resigned as Goa chief minister and moved to the Centre as defence minister. He won from Panaji in the February 2017 election, though by a narrow margin of 800-odd votes. “I would say we certainly had expected a bigger victory margin in Panaji since it was Parrikar’s constituency and he himself had campaigned heavily,” said a BJP functionary, requesting anonymity.

Goa BJP functionaries said the Panaji bypoll may be held along with the bypoll for Valpoi constituency from where former Congress legislator Vishwajit Rane will be contesting on a BJP ticket. Rane had resigned soon after getting elected in the February elections protesting against the Congress party’s failure to stake claim for forming a government in Goa despite emerging as the single-largest party. Soon after, Rane joined the BJP and was also given the health portfolio in the state cabinet.

The Congress party in Goa, which is livid with the BJP ever since the latter pipped it to form the government in March by some deft moves coordinated by BJP’s Goa observer and Union minister Nitin Gadkari and Parrikar himself, has decided to contest both the bypolls to hit back at Parrikar and Rane.

BJP functionaries in Goa and BJP allies like Maharashtrwadi Gomantak Party and Goa Forward expect Parrikar to win but not with a huge margin. “The Congress will make it a prestige fight and it won’t be a cakewalk for us. The timing of the bypoll will be important. In June, Goa will have Panchayat polls which will give us clues to what people are thinking about our alliance with MGP (Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party) and GFP (Goa Forward Party). If the bypoll is held soon after Ganesh Chaturthi in September, Parrikar won’t be affected by the negative publicity we got when we formed the government,” said the BJP functionary quoted above.

An MGP member said both MGP and GFP would support Parrikar in the bypoll. “We asked for Parrikar to be made the chief minister if the BJP wanted our support. We will support him in the bypoll,” said the MGP functionary, requesting anonymity.

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