Fund crunch a major hurdle

SANDESH PRABHUDESAI, PANAJI | 12 February 1998 13:41 IST

Fund crunch seems to have affected a tiny state of Goa, having only two constituencies, despite the official figure of election expenses here has been raised from Rs 1.90 lakh to Rs eight lakh. The only person seems to be relieved from the tension is union law minister Ramakant Khalap.

Except Khalap’s Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, whose leaders unofficially confirm that quite a few have come forward to voluntarily donate funds for elections, even candidates belonging to the ruling Congress party here are grumbling about funds.

"Neither funds have come from the centre nor the local rulers have come to our rescue", claims a close confident of Ravi Naik, former chief minister contesting from North Goa. Despite spending lakhs of rupees in Assembly elections, he had miserably lost it. But voters expect him to behave in the same manner even this time, says his close confidant.

Though BJP leaders have openly alleged that strongman Churchill Alemao is pouring money in both the constituencies to win over the local village youth, Alemao’s brother Joaquim vehemently denies the allegation. "In fact every day we send hundreds of workers empty handed due to severe crunch", claims another close aide of Alemao.

The normal practice in Goa was to collect donations from the local mine owners and big industrial houses. The BJP reportedly also collects from their "friends" in Mumbai. But Congress candidates’ prime lobby of builders is presently passing through recession whereas Alemao’s prime lobby of five star hoteliers also seems to be little affected with a setback during current tourism season.

Though raising the limit of expenses four-fold is a little relief, it has in no way affected the campaign strategies compared to ’96 polls. While there is total ban on hoardings as per the official agreement reached between all the contesting parties, only Khalap is putting up banners with permission from the local self-governing bodies and private parties.

Goa has no tradition of cut-outs while publicity mediums like posters and wall-paintings are also banned here due to permanent act preventing defacement of property. Even newspaper advertisements are planned only by Khalap and the ruling Congress, that too in the last week of the campaign. The only new feature this time is a booklet published by both the sitting MPs - Khalap and Alemao - highlighting their achievements in last 18 months.

Otherwise it is a regular strategy of party workers moving from house to house while candidates holding corner meetings in villages and at the taluka centers. Besides few vehicles seen moving with loudspeakers and playing songs on cassettes promoting the candidates, it is as peaceful as any virgin and secluded Goan beach is found to be.

While the ruling party does not expect any national leader after organising one "flop rally" of Sonia Gandhi even before finalising their candidates, both Khalap and the BJP are planning to compete in getting few national figures in Goa to address public rallies. Right now, it is Gopinath Munde and Prakash Jawdekar for the BJP and veteran journalist Madhav Gadkari for the MGP.

Coming two weeks however could be little extraordinary with prime minister I K Gujral scheduled to come on 19 February, followed by Madhu Dandvate and Kamala Sinha. Khalap is still struggling to get dates from Ram Vilas Paswan and Chandrababu Naidu to woo the Bihari and AP workers. Even the BJP has confirmed only Pramod Mahajan and Sushma Swaraj till date while getting Atel Bihari Vajpayee seems unattainable.

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