Goa bypolls today: Manohar Parrikar contesting from Panaji seat

Mumbai: Nearly five months after he was sworn in as chief minister of Goa, Manohar Parrikar faces a bypoll to the Panaji assembly constituency on 23 August.

Congress leader in Goa and All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary Girish Chodankar is Parrikar’s main rival while Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) candidate Anand Shirodkar is also in the fray. When he was sworn in as chief minister, Parrikar was not a member of the Goa assembly.

Goa will see another assembly bypoll on Wednesday for the Valpoi constituency where two senior Congress leaders’ sons are fighting a prestige battle. Vishwajit Rane, a former Congress party legislator and son of Congress party veteran Pratapsinh Rane, is seeking entry into the assembly from Valpoi constituency on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket. Rane was elected from Valpoi in the February assembly polls on the Congress ticket but he resigned soon after and joined the BJP. He is also a minister in the Parrikar cabinet. His main rival is Roy Naik, son of senior Congress leader and legislator Ravi Naik. While Ravi Naik has been campaigning heavily for his son, Vishwajit’s father Pratapsinh Rane has made no public appearance for his son nor has he joined the Congress campaign.

Results of the two bypolls would be declared on 28 August.

Panaji, the capital of Goa state, has been Parrikar’s favourite hunting ground since 1994 when he won his maiden assembly election from this constituency. The senior BJP leader has represented Panaji in the Goa assembly five times since then. He won a comprehensive victory by Goa’s standards in the 2012 elections, defeating his Congress rival by more than 6,000 votes. The BJP under Parrikar won a simple majority on its own in Goa for the first time in 2012. But in 2015 when Parrikar was moved to the centre to serve as the defence minister, the BJP fielded Parrikar’s protégé Siddharth Kuncalienkar from Panaji who won by more than 5,000 votes. The BJP’s margin of victory, however, reduced in the February polls when Kuncalienkar won by only 919 votes.

Kuncalienkar resigned the seat in May this year to make way for Parrikar. The BJP and Parrikar got a shot in the arm in July when Kuncalienkar’s close rival Atanasio Monserrate of United Goans Party joined the Goa Forward Party (GFP) which is a BJP ally in the Goa government. Vijay Sardesai, chief of GFP and minister for town and country planning in the Parrikar cabinet, has lent his party’s support to the Goa chief minister, describing the BJP leader as the “only leader who can deliver on the issue of development”. The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), Goa’s oldest regional party and BJP ally, is also supporting Parrikar.

Congress candidate Chodankar, who was fielded after the party seriously considered three names including one former BJP member, has based his campaign on Parrikar’s “U-turns” as chief minister in the current term as well as his previous tenure. Goa Congress president Shantaram Naik has targeted Parrikar for “shirking his responsibilities as the defence minister and installing an unholy and anti-democratic government in Goa”. The Congress has claimed that Parrikar, by forming the BJP-led government even though the BJP won only 13 seats in the 40-member Goa assembly as against 17 by the Congress, had lost the support and goodwill of people in Goa