BJP takes on Congress-NCP combine in Goa (Poll Curtainraiser – Goa)

Panaji, April 22 (Inditop) The two Lok Sabha seats from Goa will see the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) battle it out Thursday with the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine that belatedly managed to cobble together a seat-sharing agreement.

Jitendra Deshprabhu, an erstwhile nobleman who is a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate, will take on former union minister Shripad Naik of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the North Goa seat.

Former chief minister Francisco Sardinha of the Congress will try to outwit lawyer Narendra Savoikar of the BJP in the battle for the South Goa seat.

Elections to the two Lok Sabha seats in Goa with 1.01 million voters eligible to cast their franchise will be completed in the second phase of the poll.

While the BJP is going it alone for both the seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress arrived at a seat-sharing arrangement a little late in the day, allowing them only a little more than two weeks of campaign time.

The alliance’s candidate in North Goa, Jitendra Deshprabhu, belongs to a family of erstwhile viscounts who were appointed by Portuguese colonial rulers to oversee the region of Pernem.

In a mysterious move, Deshprabhu, a Congressman for four decades and a legislator twice, was willingly released by the party so that he could contest on the NCP ticket, as per the diktat of the national leaderships of the two parties.

His opponent is two-time MP from North Goa and former union minister Shripad Naik of the BJP. While he is known for his relatively clean image and affable personality, he has been ridiculed for being shunted around repeatedly during his previous stint in the treasury benches when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power.

Naik’s repeated transfers as minister of state in the ministries of agriculture, shipping, railways, civil aviation and finance over a period of three years have been the talking point of most opposition rallies.

The candidature of Pandurang Raut, president of one of Goa’s oldest regional parties, the Maharashtrwadi Gomantak Party (MGP), from North Goa could assume significance, not from the point of view of winnability but with regard to how many votes Raut could deprive the BJP of.

The BJP’s rise in Goa has coincided with the gradual decline of the MGP, with its largely Hindu cadre. The BJP tried to talk the MGP into a loosely strung poll association, which was rejected by the latter.

In South Goa, sitting Congress MP Sardinha takes on first time contestant, lawyer Narendra Savoikar of the BJP, in a one-on-one battle. Savoikar has been pegged as the underdog in a Congress-friendly constituency with a strong Christian population.

However, rampant infighting within the Congress could dent Sardinha’s natural advantage.

While political observers have stuck their neck out in Sardinha’s favour, they have also hinted that United Goans Democratic party (UGDP) candidate Mathany Saldanha has the potential to upset Sardinha’s apple cart.

Mathany, a social activist, could well play Pandurang Raut’s role in North Goa; this time his presence could dent the Congress by splitting the Christian votes and turning the poll in favour the BJP.