Uphill task for Khalap
Sandesh Prabhudesai in Panaji
What should be the criteria to judge a parliamentarian -- his performance in the House or actual work in the constituency?
The question seems to haunt Goa as the Panaji and Mormugao Lok Sabha seats go to the poll on Saturday.
In order to woo voters, the ruling Congress has been following contradictory stands in the two constituencies which it lost in 1996.
To attack Union Law Minister Ramakant Khalap, Congress candidate and former chief minister Ravi Naik has been flaying his non-performance in Panaji. Mormugao candidate and former minister Francisco Sardinha, however, criticises Churchill Alemao's lack of education to be a skilled parliamentarian.
Both Khalap and Alemao, belonging to two different regional outfits, however, have parted ways and are bent upon defeating each other. The BJP, by filing better candidates than in the past, has also overcome its 'non-entity image'.
Khalap faces an uphill task as his opponents are his former colleagues in the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, eating into the minister's traditional vote bank. The Congress candidate is a Bhandari and the BJP's Pandurang Raut belongs to Khalap's Maratha community.
The MGP relies upon all these communities to counter
Flaying them as turncoats, Khalap is also stressing upon their lack of oratory skills and parliamentary experience.
Though the Congress normally gets most of the Catholic votes, Naik is not preferred by most of them. In fact, Deputy Chief Minister Wilfred de Souza, a rebel Congress leader, has taken an open stand against his party candidate.
The camps belonging to Khalap and Alemao now claim that the deputy chief minister is working for them. However, their claims have only added to the people's confusion. Khalap seems weak, not having both de Souza and Alemao with him.
What is more, the BJP seems much stronger in the MGP areas this time. Alemao, too, has made a dent in the MGP strongholds besides the Catholic-dominated Congress bastions,
shaking Khalap's confidence.
Another fact going against Khalap is that the 400,000-strong north Goa constituency has never re-elected the same MP. Despite the area getting a Cabinet berth for the first time, Khalap may not succeed in changing the history if Alemao's candidate polls more MGP votes.
Comparatively, Alemao himself appears quite comfortable in the south, though Congress candidate Sardinha is more acceptable than former Union minister Eduardo Faleiro whose sixth Lok Sabha term was foiled by Alemao in 1996.
But Alemao would not be able to maintain his margin of 25,000 votes, admit his close aides. For Sardinha is capable enough of winning over the traditional Congress votes of the Catholic community. In 1996, Alemao had secured the maximum number of votes in the Catholic-dominated areas.
The Congress is also threatened by BJP candidate Ramakant Angle, who is quite popular in the south due to his generosity in giving donations to clubs and educational institutions. More than Alemao, the Congress fears losing votes to the BJP.
Alemao's prospects had brightened when the MGP fielded a weak candidate, Padmanabh Amonkar.
Realising its weakness, the MGP leaders are now campaigning
among its cadres, requesting them to vote for the Congress, if not the MGP.
While 'non-performance' has been used for mud-slinging, most of the parties are seen involved in calculating community votes and taking the help of disgruntled elements in the opponents's camps.
Meanwhile, serious issues confronting the state -- like writing off its loan of Rs 4 billion, starting eco-friendly industries and infrastructural development -- take a backseat.
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