BJP may have tough time campaigning in Panaji
Panaji: After weeks of hints in circulation that Utpal Parrikar could step into the shoes of his father Manohar Parrikar, the BJP might have to work very hard to mobilise the party organisation in Panaji for the campaign of their nominee for the by-election Sidharth Kunkalienkar.
Among the reasons for keeping Utpal out of the contest is believed to be undercurrents within the BJP Panaji mandal which threatened to cause a split on the pattern of Mapusa. When party leaders selected Joshua D’Souza as its candidate for the Mapusa by-election, Sudhir Kandolkar, who was considered as a pillar of the BJP’s Mapusa Mandal, revolted, taking away several workers and supporters with him.
“Kandolkar’s decision to leave the BJP, join the Congress and contest the Mapusa bypoll as a Congress candidate upset the plan of the BJP,” party sources said, adding that the support extended by the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party to Kandolkar further damaged the party plan.
The undercurrents in the Panaji mandal hinted at a section of the BJP walking out and supporting a candidate who might stand as independent.
Though Sidharth Kunkalienkar had extended his support to Utpal if he were announced as the party’s Panaji candidate, these undercurrents suggested that the situation might not be entirely clean and comfortable within the Panaji mandal for Parrikar’s heir.
Kunkalienkar’s cryptic statement – “I would work 100 per cent for my own victory if I am selected as the party’s Panaji candidate, but I would work 110 per cent for Utpal’s win if he was nominated” – sent out a coded message the BJP leaders were wise enough to decode.
“The issue of family raj was no issue as far as Utpal was concerned since Joshua was given the candidature of the party from Mapusa after his father’s demise,” party sources said. “There are several sons and daughters of BJP leaders in other states who are in politics,” the sources said. “The winnability was also not an issue,” the party sources said. “Utpal had considerable support in Panaji, backed by the legacy of Manohar Parrikar, to challenge Congress candidate Atanasio Monserrate effectively.”
Interestingly, the BJP initially projected Utpal, albeit indirectly, as the city bypoll candidate. He was asked to accompany North Goa BJP candidate Shripad Naik at the time of his filing of nomination papers as well as later campaign for Naik. He also spoke at the party election campaign meeting at Mapusa where Union Minister Nitin Gadkari was the chief speaker.
Although the state BJP leaders might have prevented a likely or threatened split in the Panaji mandal they do face a big challenge of getting all the party workers together now to work for the party candidate Sidharth Kunkalienkar.
Party insiders admitted keeping out Utpal has disappointed a number of loyalists and sympathisers of Manohar Parrikar. In that sense, the BJP leaders have to contend with a different kind of undercurrent now.
A long-time supporter of Manohar Parrikar and leader of BJP Mahila Morcha said she had been expecting Utpal to be fielded in the Panaji electoral fray. “There are many, many more like me who are dejected with the decision of the party,” she said. “We have nothing against Sidharth but he faces heavy anti-incumbency. Utpal would have been a better choice against Monserrate and Subhash Velingkar of the Goa Suraksha Manch.”
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant camped at the BJP’s Panaji office on Saturday evening to convince members of the Panaji mandal and party workers of the final option of accepting Sidharth as the candidate for the Panaji bypoll. Party sources feel Sawant and party state head Vinay Tendulkar might have to do much more to infuse enthusiasm in the Panaji mandal for the party campaign.