PANAJI: The election to the lone Rajya Sabha seat in Goa, which will be held on June 8, will be a testing time for the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party and the Opposition Congress party as both the national parties do not have enough numbers. But the coalition partners of the Parrikar government would be string-pullers and hold the key to the victory of any candidate.
However, the BJP could have an edge if it succeeds in managing its coalition partners.
The term of present Rajya Sabha MP Shantaram Naik (Congress) expires on July 28.
It must be noted here that political parties have fewer days to decide on their respective candidate for this poll as the Election Commission of India has fixed May 29 as the last date for filing nominations.
At present, the state assembly has strength of 38 members as Vishwajit Rane resigned as Valpoi MLA of the Congress and joined the BJP, and Sidharth Kuncolienkar quit as Panaji MLA making way for Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to contest the by-poll.
The BJP has 12 MLAs whereas its alliance partners – the Goa Forward Party and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party have three legislators each. Besides there are three Independent MLAs, and two of them are ministers in the Parrikar government.
The Congress has 16 MLAs and the Nationalist Congress Party has a lone legislator Churchill Alemao, who supported the government during the vote of confidence.
It is learnt that though the ruling BJP has not finalised its candidate for the RS poll, former minister Rajendra Arlekar, former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar, state BJP chief Vinay Tendulkar, former Fatorda MLA Damodar Naik and Kuncolienkar could be aspirants for party nomination.
A senior BJP leader said the party would take as call soon on the candidate for the RS election in the state.
“One of the few Catholic leaders of the BJP in Goa, Wilfred Mesquita could also have found place in this list, but for his recent attacks on the local unit of the party on various issues – including local party unit “patronising corruption – timed just before the 2017 state assembly election,” a local BJP leader stated.
Incidentally, the candidature of Parsekar could face opposition from the MGP as he had ousted the Dhavalikar brothers from his cabinet, during the last phase of his government, while the GFP could go against the candidature of Damodar Naik due to the political rivalry between him and the GFP supremo Vijai Sardesai.
The Congress too has decided to put up its candidate for the election, although it also does not have enough numbers.
Confirming to ‘The Navhind Times’ that there would be a Congress candidate in the fray, Opposition leader Chandrakant ‘Babu’ Kavlekar said the party would try to win over voters from the ruling side before finalising the candidate.
Sardesai said that his party would hold a meeting soon to discuss the matter, adding that all coalition partners would also decide on the candidate for the RS election.
Political observers feel that though the ruling side has 21 MLAs, nine are non-BJP legislators, who hold the key to the victory of a candidate in the RS poll in Goa.
Although the BJP did not give candidature to Tendulkar to contest at the 2017 state assembly election, he is found to be functioning satisfactorily as the state party chief and hence there are chances of his selection as party’s candidate for the Rajya Sabha election.
There are a few more names like the former deputy chairman of the now defunct Goa state planning board, Dattaprasad Kholkar and the former speaker of state legislative assembly, Anant Shet, who was denied candidature from his traditional Mayem constituency during the recent state assembly election. However, the BJP camp has reservations about their performance at the national level.
A general consensus in the party is found to be in favour of Arlekar, who was also a strong contender for the post of the chief minister when Manohar Parrikar had left for New Delhi in November 2014 to join the Union cabinet as defence minister.
“Arlekar is a senior party leader from Goa, has good personal relations with the national leaders of the party, as well as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and carries wide experience of party work and politics behind him,” a BJP legislator told this daily.
An officer-bearer of the state BJP, also supporting Arlekar for the particular candidature, said that everyone in the party as well as coalition partners of the state government would overwhelmingly support Arlekar due to his dignified political career and forthcoming nature.