Will Babush Fight Parrikar in Panaji?

By Ashwin Tombat
15 May 2017 15:30 IST

The Congress is desperate to make a good showing against the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar in the coming by-election in his chosen constituency of Panaji. Not surprisingly, it has settled on Atanasio 'Babush' Monserrate, the very person it had expelled from the party for six years in 2015, right around the time of the previous by-election in Panaji, on charges of collusion with the BJP!

It's 2017 now, just over two years into Babush's six-year expulsion term. And he is already the party's only hope...

On Thursday, 14 of the 16 Congress MLAs along with the party's Goa desk in-charge A Chellakumar met Babush, and begged him to be the party candidate against Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar for the Panaji by-election. They conveyed to him, by their deeds if not words, that the Congress will accept all his terms and conditions, since it has no organisation worth the name in the Panaji constituency.

It's very clear that the Congress thinks it has no option in Panaji, even though the city's Mayor Surendra Furtado has indicated his willingness to take on the chief minister in the coming by-poll. Still, there's no word from Babush about whether he will take on Parrikar in Panaji. I can't blame him.

Babush can now compare what's on offer from the Congress with what's on offer from the BJP (rumour says the BJP has offered to 'help' with Babush's election from Santa Cruz if he gives the Panaji by-poll a pass). He may even bargain with both sides, and carve out the very best deal for himself.

 In theory, Babush does not need to stand from Panaji. He could also contest a by-election from Santa Cruz, where the MLA — his loyal supporter Antonio alias Tony Fernandes — has publicly indicated his willingness to resign from the seat if his boss wants to enter the assembly.

But simple arithmetic tells Babush that it is much better to contest from Panaji. That is, unless he has an ironclad deal with the BJP that it will not seriously oppose him if he contests from Santa Cruz.

In the February election for the Panaji constituency, Babush (6,855 votes) lost to Siddharth Kuncalienker (7,924 votes) by a modest margin of 1,069 votes. The Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP's) Valmiki Naik came third, with 1,944 votes.

A five-time MLA and chief minister contesting a by-election is obviously a stronger opponent than a first-time sitting MLA seeking re-election. Secondly, how many of Valmiki's votes will transfer themselves to Babush is a large and open question mark. Despite all this, in Panaji he is still in with a chance.

In Santa Cruz, if one combines the 5,560 votes of BJP candidate Hemant Golatkar with the 2,707 votes of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) candidate Prakash Naik, it dwarfs Tony Fernandes's winning total of 6,202 by over 2,000 votes!

The additional complication in Santa Cruz is independent candidate Rodolfo alias Rudolf Fernandes, who bagged 5,262 votes, and for whom Santa Cruz is a family fiefdom (his mother, Victoria alias Mummy, is a lifelong social worker and political leader from the constituency and a former MLA). He is very, very unlikely to stand down for Babush.

Babush may be at a distinct disadvantage in Panaji in a by-election against a chief minister, but he still has a fighting chance. To contest from Santa Cruz without the BJP's direct or indirect support, however, would be akin to political suicide.

He can probably afford to lose a second election if it's a narrow verdict in a prestige contest against a five-time incumbent and sitting chief minister in Panaji. But can Babush even countenance losing a second time — if it is against a regular BJP no-name candidate in a routine by-election in Santa Cruz?

At this point, it is not easy to predict exactly what Babush Monserrate will do. But when he does decide, at least we will be in a position to better understand why.

Blogger's Profile

Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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