Khalap-Alemao's fate hanging fire

SANDESH PRABHUDESAI, PANAJI | 07 February 1998 13:38 IST

The fate of both the regional party leaders and sitting MPs in Goa - union law minister Ramakant Khalap and strongman Churchill Alemao - is still hanging fire. But elections may strengthen their base, eyeing for the next Assembly polls.

The United Goans Democratic Party, led by Alemao, is a front runner among them. After sweeping last Lok Sabha polls in the South by ending the five-term long Congress hegemony, he is now making a headway in the North Goa.

Khalap’s Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, which had initially ruled the state for 17 years since 1961, however is trailing far behind. If the union law minister loses, it may split further to strengthen the UGDP and the BJP.

It was a surprise when Alemao defeated former union minister Eduardo Faleiro by over 25,000 votes in South Goa, while even the MGP and the BJP lost sizeable votes to him, besides the Congress losing 26 per cent of its votes. Along with the Catholic bahujan samaj, even the Hindu bahujan samaj stood behind him.

Sensing the vacuum created among the Hindu bahujan samaj due to incompetency of the MGP and upper caste politics of the BJP, Alemao has now entered the North Goa to woo the grassroot level workers in the Hindu-dominated tourist state.

Having no Catholic candidate, the minority Catholics are now thinking of merits to choose their MP, while the process of shifting their traditional allegiance from the Congress had already begun during last elections when Khalap had made a major breakthrough in the Congress bastions.

Besides getting a huge margin in the MGP-dominated talukas of Pernem and Bicholim, the Congress had also lost around 20 per cent votes to the union law minister, especially in the Catholic-ruled talukas of Bardez and Tiswadi.

But his dominion is now challenged by his own United Front colleague. Besides wooing the Catholics, Alemao is pulling large crowds in the Hindu-dominated MGP areas. Though his candidate cannot win the elections, the UGDP can play a major role in defeating Khalap.

Despite attempts from the MGP camp, the BJP as well as the UGDP also rejected proposals of fetching the poll alliance with Khalap’s party, so that they could bargain with the MGP during the next Assembly polls, on the basis of the votes they could poll now.

Though the MGP’s fate however now depends on Khalap’s victory, Alemao’s entry into the North has also shaken up the ruling Congress party. The ruling party could poll 38 per cent votes last time while Khalap polled merely five per cent more.

But the UGDP may change the whole scenario in the state, if Alemao succeeds in defeating Khalap. It all depends on how many Catholic votes Ravi Naik, the Congress candidate and former chief minister, can retain with the ruling party.

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