Neither BJP nor Cong projecting CM face in Goa

Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari set the cat among the pigeons last week when he said that a BJP leader from Delhi could be the choice for Goa’s chief ministership if the MLAs desired.

Ever since he left Goa in 2014 to become the defence minister, there has been persistent speculation that Manohar Parrikar might choose to return to state politics. The speculation has been driven largely by the fact that Parrikar spends so much time in his home state that he is called the “weekend chief minister of Goa”.

Parrikar has hardly made secret of the fact that he is not at home in Delhi, culturally. But it is also the case that he is totally invested in the BJP’s political strategy and governance in Goa.

The defence minister, who has been camping here since the announcement of election schedule, has taken complete charge of the candidate selection process.

Despite strong resistance from within the party, Parrikar presided over the induction of two Congress MLAs – Mauvin Godinho and Pandurang Madkaikar – into the BJP recently. The MLAs are facing allegations of corruption, and Parrikar had also filed a case against Godinho in a power scam. But Godinho will now contest from Dabolim and Madkaikar from Cumbarjua.

When asked about Gadkari’s statement, Parrikar said he would “cross the bridge when it comes”. But it is clear that for the BJP and the Congress, the choice of chief minister could depend not so much on their party MLAs as the dictates of post-poll alliances, with ground surveys and intelligence reports so far are pointing towards a hung Assembly.

After the BJP broke alliance with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) over the issue of removing Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, the BJP has been cautious about projecting him as its chief ministerial face.

The MGP, which has formed a ‘mahayuti’ with like-minded saffron parties the Shiv Sena and Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM), floated by the breakaway RSS faction, has projected MGP leader Sudin Dhavlikar as its chief ministerial candidate.

Known for its unabashed political opportunism, the MGP has been part of both the Congress and the BJP governments in the past. Neither the BJP nor the MGP has ruled out post-election deals, despite the public mud-slinging between them in recent weeks.
The Congress, which has four former chief ministers contesting the February 4 election, is also holding back on the chief ministerial candidate. Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Luizinho Faleiro, Pratapsingh Rane, Ravi Naik and Digambar Kamat have all been chief ministers in the past.

The Aam Aadmi Party, which is contesting in all the 40 seats, was the first to announce its chief ministerial candidate, former bureaucrat Elvis Gomes. A tough contest awaits Gomes in Cuncolim with multiple players vying for the secular vote.

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