BJP fields defectors

SANDESH PRABHUDESAI, PANAJI | 30 December 1998 21:09 IST

Bharatiya Janata Party president L K Advani has been proved wrong by his own party cadres in Goa, in fielding the candidates having credentials in political life.

In the background of several veteran Congress leaders leaving the party to join hands with the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha polls, Advani had claimed that they would not accept leaders leaving other parties without checking their credentials.

But the Goan BJP is planning to field the politicians, for the two seats here, known for their vacillating characteristics. They have recently joined the BJP, after being into the non-BJP forums.

"I admit they have joined us recently. But they have better mass contacts and mass appeal compared to our veteran leaders", admits Dr Suresh Amonkar, the local BJP chief.

Though the BJP could not win a single Parliamentary seat till date, it has been polling sizeable number of votes sine ’91 polls, by fielding its local president and general secretary.

But this time, it’s Pandurang Raut from North Goa, to cross swords with his one-time leader and union law minister Ramakant Khalap, with whose blessings he had become the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party MLA in 1990.

During the same terms, Khalap had managed to overthrow the Congress government within 75 days by engineering defections, by joining hands with Churchill Alemao, his arch rival today and the South Goa MP.

The unsatisfied elements like Raut within the MGP however led a revolt within the coalition in 10 months to seek ministerial berths and form another coalition with the Congress, under the leadership of Ravi Naik. Subsequently, they joined the Congress.

Though he never became the MLA, history of Ramakant Angle, BJP’s South Goa candidate, is no different. Being in Congress, he had miserably failed to get the Rajya Sabha ticket even after inviting "political godman" Chandraswami to Goa, as well as the Assembly ticket in ‘94.

After denying tickets by the Congress, both these "loyal Congress soldiers" staged a revolt and contested as independent candidates, only to lose their deposits. Having no other option, they had recently joined the BJP.

"They won’t defect again. We have full faith in them", claims Manohar Parrikar, the BJP general secretary and the MLA, who has lost two Parliamentary elections in the past. Though BJP is still not a force in Goa to win the polls, they have been consistently polling around 15 per cent votes.

Representing the Maratha community, the BJP expects Raut to increase its percentage while also posing a challenge before Khalap, who also belongs to the same community. On the other hand, in the South, they are planning to cash on rich-man Angle’s influence among several clubs and educational institutions as a popular donor.

Though the local BJP knows that it cannot win even these elections, it plans to utilise these candidates to increase its voting percentage, which may influence the Goan political scenario for the ensuing Assembly polls, slated to be held in 1999.

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