Pocketful of problems before Shripad
RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR | NT
Panaji: There’s hardly a week left for Goans to cast their vote, for selecting their representative in the Lok Sabha, for the next five years. The situation in North Goa constituency is, however, still hazy as regards the public inclination.
Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Shripad Naik had been successful in taking a lead in the electoral campaign. In fact, he had started his canvassing at least a fortnight before his rivals did. His nearest rival, Girish Chodankar of the Indian National Congress, however, started his electioneering with lot of enthusiasm and is fast catching up with the lost time. He is also receiving good response from the electorate, even though he originally hails from South Goa.
It is interesting to note that Shripad Naik and Girish Chodankar, the candidates of the two major national political parties are yet to come out with their respective manifestos, as against Shiv Sena candidate Rakhi Prabhudessai Naik, who has already released her manifesto. She has promised provision in central laws to give minimum financial support to mining dependants if the industry continues to reel under crisis, removing casinos from nearby water bodies in Goa, complete protection of the Mhadei river from any kind of diversion, absolute implementation of the Wildlife Protection Act, and scrapping the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2019. The Aam Aadmi Party’s Pradeep Padgaonkar is also yet to release his manifesto.
Both, Naik and Chodankar are making up for the delay in release of their manifestos by visiting each of the 20 assembly constituencies in North Goa Lok Sabha constituency. They are approaching the voters with various issues ranging from unemployment to timely and judicious spending of the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) funds to resolving the mining problem faced by the state.
Besides being a non-North Goan candidate, Chodankar does not have much to worry about. The BJP candidate on the other hand has a pocketful of problems before him. The anti-incumbency factor before this four-time Parliamentarian is least of his problems. His main obstacles include the opposition from within the party, especially in the Mandrem and the Mapusa assembly constituencies; resistance from the mining belt voters; and finally, the decision of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party to support the Congress candidate.
The MGP presently has support of 13 per cent voters from Goa. In North Goa itself, assembly constituencies like Mapusa, Bicholim, Mayem, Sankhali and Pernem still have many MGP loyalist voters.
As both, Naik and Chodankar belong to the Bhandari community, it is difficult to predict how the votes of this community would be distributed among them. Caste politics will be difficult to predict in North Goa constituency.
Furthermore, if the BJP candidate has an upper hand in Valpoi constituency in particular, and Sattari taluka in general, thanks to the support shown to him by Valpoi legislator, Vishwajit Rane, then the Congress candidate may have advantage with the Catholic voters.
Besides Naik and Chodankar, the Shiv Sena and Aam Aadmi Party candidates have also started their campaign and are meeting the voters as well as attending smaller meetings.
The national political parties have organised public meetings of their national leaders in Goa, before the election campaign closes here. Nitin Gadkari, Suresh Prabhu and Navjot Singh Sidhu, among others will canvass for their respective parties and try to attract voters during the public meetings.
It is expected that the electoral trend in North Goa would be much clearer by the time poll campaign in the state ends on April 21. By that time, most of the candidates in this constituency would have completed their campaigning as also their voters made up their mind about their April 23 tryst with the electronic voting machine.