Civic polls: infighting in BJP over delimitation led to postponement

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Panaji: Differences in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over delimitation and reservation of wards and infighting in the party over finalisation of some candidates compelled the state government to request the State Election Commission (SEC) to postpone the municipal elections.

It may be noted that the SEC has postponed elections to the 11 municipal councils and the City Corporation of Panaji (CCP) for a period of three months, till April.

Though the SEC has cited COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for postponement of the civic body elections, inside reports reveal that there are various factors including differences between the ruling party MLAs and the party organisation over delimitation of wards and finalisation of candidates for the polls which forced the party to buy some time to settle the issues.

Accordingly, the directorate of municipal administration wrote a letter to the SEC to postpone the civic body polls.

It is learnt from sources that there are differences between Panaji MLA Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate and the BJP over delimitation of CCP wards and finalisation of candidates for the panel.

Information received from sources reveals that Monserrate, who was originally elected on Congress party ticket and later joined BJP with nine other Congress legislators, was insisting that the delimitation of CCP wards should be as per his wish. However, BJP wanted the process of delimitation carried out as per its requirements.

Further, it is also learnt that such differences of opinion between ruling party MLAs and the party organisation have also cropped up in Canacona, Valpoi, Cuncolim and Pernem over delimitation of municipal wards. This internal strife is one of the reasons why the elections were postponed.

The heat of the agitation against the IIT project by Shel-Melauli villagers in Sattari taluka has also

spread across the state after a lathi charge by police on the protestors. People from various parts of the state are blaming the government for atrocities on the locals, who have been fighting to protect their land and environment.

Even though the government has now announced shifting of the IIT campus project from Shel-Melauli village, the protest by the locals continues and people from other parts of the state have been extending support to the people of Sattari. It appears that this agitation factor has also forced the government to buy some time to settle things before the civic body polls are held.

The Opposition Congress has termed the postponement of elections to the 11 municipalities and CCP as a political gimmick to settle infighting in the BJP.

Though COVID-19 has been cited as the reason by the SEC for postponement of the polls, a question is being raised by many on how the Zilla Panchayat polls were held in December 2020 during the pandemic. The Opposition has also pointed out that the Chief Minister, cabinet ministers and the ruling MLAs were canvassing for the ZP polls even after the SEC did not allow campaigning.