Manohar Parrikar credits campaign for BJP victory in Goa by-poll
Panaji : The BJP in Goa on Monday won the Panaji and Valpoi seats in the assembly bypolls, with Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar claiming that the two comfortable victories had not only strengthened his government but were also a popular endorsement of the move to snatch power from the numerically superior Congress.
Parrikar won with a margin of 4,803 votes, defeating his nearest rival Congress' Girish Chodankar.
Earlier in the day, the mood in the BJP camp was rapturous after Parrikar and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane won the bypolls in Panaji and Valpoi respectively, the latter with a sizeable margin of 10,066 votes.
While Parrikar polled 9,862 votes, Chodankar netted 5,059 votes. Anand Shirodkar of the Goa Suraksha Manch came a distant third with 220 votes.
"There was no stress on the government, but obviously numbers count in democracy and governance. So now it is 14 plus three plus three plus three. So it is 23 strong and the government's moral strength has increased because of a strong result. The government is now endorsed by the people of the state," Parrikar said, claiming that Congress' charge that the BJP had "stolen" the mandate in the February 2017 assembly polls were untrue.
The Congress had won 17 seats in the February assembly polls, as compared to 12 by the BJP, but swift manoeuvring enabled the BJP to stake claim to power by aligning with Goa Forward, Maharshtrawadi Gomantak Party and Independent MLAs.
Chodankar said he may have lost the polls, but he was touched by the manner in which Panaji voters had interacted with him.
"I may have lost numerically, but residents of Panaji have given me a lot of love," Chodankar told reporters here. State Congress president Shantaram Naik said that the BJP won the bypolls through "electoral terrorism".
Rane, who won 16,167 votes, beat Congress' Roy Naik by 10,066 votes.
The bypoll in Panaji was necessitated after former Defence Minister Parrikar's return to state politics in March as Chief Minister.
Sitting BJP MLA Sidarth Kuncolienkar resigned from the Panaji seat, enabling the four-time Chief Minister and five-time Panaji MLA to contest for the state's capital constituency.
In Valpoi, the bypolls were held following the resignation of Rane as a Congress MLA. He subsequently joined the BJP and joined the cabinet as Health Minister.
Speaking to reporters after his victory, Parrikar said, that both he and Rane had to battle an oppressive and divisive campaign by the Opposition, which he alleged was hand-in-glove with a Church backed organisation.
"All methods were tried, legal, media, social media and bad publicity. Even to the extent that two days before elections, some organisation released an untrue fact-finding report. I am calling it untrue, because you will realise why in the coming days, because government goes by the police investigation..." Parrikar said, without naming the Goa Church or the Council for Social Justice and Peace, a Church-backed social organisation which had released the fact-finding report to the media two days before the bypolls.
"People of Goa are harmonious vis-a-vis all religions. During Ganesh Chaturthi, all Catholics and Muslims visit us and we also visit them during Christmas. I condemn the fact that it was for the first time, that our opponents tried to create differences. But the people of Goa taught them a lesson... Such forces will try to divide people. We will have to be alert," Parrikar also said, while commenting on the report which has been co-authored by Mumbai-based Centre for Study of Society and Secularism.
The report demanded a court-monitored probe in the mass desecrations and was critical of police and state administration. Earlier, a Church-run pastoral magazine, had likened contemporary India to Nazi Germany, while imploring Catholics to vote against communalism in the by-polls.