Cong wins ZP polls, except in Meta Strips belt

SANDESH PRABHUDESAI, PANAJI | 09 February 2000 23:11 IST

Congress, presently in the opposition in Goa, has emerged a major winner in the first ever zilla panchayat elections held here while the Bharatiya Janata Party cut a sorry figure.

Though Goa is presently ruled by a coalition of Goa People's Congress (breakaway Congress group) led by chief minister Francisco Sardinha and the BJP, they could not muster majority in both the North and the South constituencies.

"We were not involved directly since elections were not fought on party lines", claims Shripad Naik, the BJP state president. The polls have however established a fact that their second-line leadership is not being recognised by the voters while the coalition has not even completed three months in power.

"It is a clear cut of sign of eroded credibility of the BJP due to its illegitimate honeymoon with the defectors", claims Luizinho Faleiro, the Goa PCC chief, whose Congress government was toppled by Sardinha in November.

In the 20-member South Goa constituency, Sardinha's GPC won hardly three seats while the BJP got none. Congress, on the other hand, got 10 members elected with its open backing, indicating clearly that the first ZP of the South would be ruled by the opposition.

The major setback however is experienced by all the political parties, whether the Congress, the GPC or the BJP, in the belt where people's agitation is on against the pollutant Meta Strips project.

The agitation leaders have emerged victorious there with highest margin, including Mathany Saldhana, who won in Cortalim by over 3700 votes, recorded as the hihgest margin in the state. Similarly, Archana Naik won from Sancoale.

Though the Congress has also won almost eight places in the 30-member North Goa constituency, the GCP-BJP combine is having almost 11 seats with them while support may come from seven more, belonging to the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the Nationalist Congress party, supporting the coalition government.

"But I wonder whether the elected members would stick to party affiliation. In spite of not having much powers, the musical chair would begin on the lines of what happens in most of the municipalities here", quips Dr Wilfred Mesquita, the GCP general secretary.

While half of the elected candidates still not aware of their powers and duties, the government is yet to transfer any power to the ZPs to begin its functioning. This is precisely the reason why Goa recorded the lowest ever 55 per cent polling in rural Goa against the normal polling of above 65 per cent.

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