BJP struggling to rule Panaji

SANDESH PRABHUDESAI, PANAJI | 27 March 2001 22:42 IST

Posing challenge before Bharatiya Janata Party's chief minister Manohar Parrikar in his home constituency of Panaji, the Congress is trying hard to take over the seat of mayor in the municipal polls.

In spite of having a party-sponsored panel and one councillor elected unopposed on their side, the ruling BJP could win only seven seats out of 18 in the elections held on 25 March. Results were declared today evening.

On the other hand, the panel sponsored by former Congress minister Somnath Zuwarkar has won six seats while five have been elected independents. One each among them is expected to support the BJP and Zuwarkar panels.

The prestige of the chief minister thus depends upon three independent councillors while horsetrading has already begun to take over the capital city of the tourist state. The council was not in the hands of Parrikar even last time.

From among the 122 candidates for 18 seats, over 56 per cent voters elected only three sitting councillors while defeating five of them. Other eight councillors did not contest while former mayor Ramesh Silimkhan's wife Ashalata was elected this time as his ward was reserved for a woman.

The defeated candidates also include Nationalist Congress Party general secretary Surendra Furtado, former Congress general secretary Avinash Bhosale and former vice president of Panaji municipality and MLA Isidore Fernandes' wife Paulina.

Though the sole election of Panaji municipality held separately after elections for 11 municipalities in October cannot be termed as a trend setter, it is definitely a blow to chief minister Parrikar, who has won the Assembly polls from Panaji for the second term.

Zuwarkar, on the other hand, is the third-time Congress MLA from Taleigao, which is also part of the Panaji municipality. The election had thus become a prestige point for both the ruling BJP as well as the opposition Congress, with eyes of all political experts set on it.

The elected councillors belonging to the BJP-sponsored panel are Precila Cabral (Ward No 1), Agnelo Silveira (unopposed-3), Ramchandra Bharne (8), Yatin Parekh (sitting councillor-10), Ashok Naik (11), Pritam Rane (13) and Dipak Mhapsekar (16).

On the other hand, members of the Zuwarkar panel are Nicholas Fernandes (4), Julie D'Silva (5), Dayanand Karapurkar (7), Ruth Surendra Furtado (9), Lina Madkaikar (12) and Ashalata Silimkhan (14).

Among the independents, Tony Rodrigues (6) is expected to support Zuwarkar panel while sitting councillor Rudresh Chodankar (15) would probably support the BJP panel, making the BJP strong with eight councillors against seven of the Zuwarkar panel.

In a neck-to-neck fight, the fate of a new mayor thus depends upon three independents - sitting councillor Carolina Po (1), Patricia Pinto (17) and Domingos Pinto (18).

The councillors who lost elections miserably are Surendra Furtado, Paulina Fernandes, Mangaldas Naik, Krishna Vaingankar and Fatima Coutinho. Furtado's wife however got elected, besides wife of Silimkhan, the former mayor of Panaji.

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