Battlelines drawn in Goa

| 28 May 2005 18:36 IST

May it be the off season from tourism point of view, but hordes of celebrities as well as top national politicians have been booking flights for Goa, not to relax but to campaign for the by-election scheduled for 2 June.

Sweating in the 36 C temperature, celebrities like Tulsi fame Smruti Irani and Congress Tom Boy Govinda are also visiting the tourist state, wooing the educated electorate here.

The tiny coastal state, which is under the President’s rule since March, will face by-election in five constituencies. The 40-member Assembly is presently under suspended animation.

Resignation of five members from the then Bharatiya Janata Party government in February had pushed the state into political turmoil. In spite of the Congress-led alliance forming alternative government, chief minister Pratapsing Rane had failed to prove his majority.

With the disqualification of Congress-supporting deputy chief minister Philip Neri Rodrigues and restrainment of BJP-supporter Mathany Saldhana, the House was caught up in a tie, with 17 members on both the sides.

While by-elections in five vacant constituencies would bring the Assembly back into action, both the Congress and the BJP have converted the crucial by-election into a major battlefield.

Besides the Irani’s road show last week and Govinda’s meetings scheduled next week, top politicians like Lal Krishna Advani, Pramod Mahajan and Sushama Swaraj have also addressed series of meetings.

In retaliation, the Congress leaders like Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit, union tourism minister Renuka Chowdhary, union water resources minister Priyaranjan Das Munshi, Margaret Alva, Sanjay Nirupam and Sachin Pilot have already campaigned in the state.

The next in the line are union finance minister P Chidambaram and Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, on her way to the Sea Bird naval base at Karwar in Karnataka, is also planning to visit the state on Monday.

Battle lines are drawn with the BJP fielding their cadres rather than popular figures in most of the constituencies against the five Congress candidates, who were the ministers in the former BJP government.

The election has also become crucial with the local bench of Mumbai high court, on Friday, setting aside election of two BJP legislators – local BJP president Rajendra Arlekar and former minister Dayanand Mandrekar.

Though the BJP has succeeded in seeking a 30-day stay on the order to approach the Supreme Court, the Congress has taken advantage of the weakened position of the saffron camp due to the court order.

However, a fact cannot be denied that the most organised campaign by the BJP has sent a clear signal to the Congress camp that it is not a cakewalk for them, in spite of the fact that the Congress is ruling at the centre and the numbers also favour them.

Former ministers Digambar Kamat, Babush Monserette, Pandurang Madkaikar (all Congress) and Micky Pacheco (Nationalist Congress) are fighting the hardcore BJP cadres like Sharmad Raiturkar, Pradip Nagavekar and Ramesh Tavadkar, besides former Congressmen Krishna Kuttikar and Premanand Lotlikar.

Cumbarjua constituency has added rebellion flavour to the by-election with former Congress chief and hardcore Congress woman Nirmala Sawant contesting as a strong rebel candidate. Women leaders like Alva, Dixit, Chowdhary and even Mabel Rebello have literally pounced upon her by carrying a fierce campaign against her.

Goans, by and large, however are eagerly waiting for a popular government, no matter who comes to power, as almost all the activities have come to a standstill in the state, which is otherwise very active in all sorts of socio-cultural activities.

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By-Elections