Goa BJP stuck on Manohar Parrikar factor

Naik said he is not in the race for the CM's post, but will work to the fullest if asked by the party leadership.

Panaji: With less than 10 days to go in the Goa Assembly elections, the chief ministerial race in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is heating up.

After statements of the party’s central leadership, including president Amit Shah, were interpreted by many as favouring defence minister Manohar Parrikar for the top post in the state, his ministerial colleague and Ayush minister Sripad Naik Thursday told this newspaper that the party has “not declared its CM candidate”.

Mr Naik said he is not in the race for the CM’s post, but will “work to the fullest” if asked by the party leadership. Mr Parrikar has also not ruled out the possibility of going back to the state.

Mr Naik belongs to the numerically-strong Bhandari community. Polling for the 40 seats in this coastal state is on February 4.

He declined to explain the earlier statements of BJP election in-charge Nitin Gadkari and Mr Shah that the “next government in the state will function under Parrikar’s leadership, irrespective of his posting”.

However, Mr Naik said the BJP national president meant that Mr Parrikar has “experience” and hence, his guidance would help the party in the state. “My guidance is always there,” he added.

On whether the central leadership’s statements have in a way discredited the party’s incumbent CM Laxmikant Parsekar, Mr Naik said, “This should not have happened.”

He said there is “no crisis” or “confusion” among the party cadre over the CM issue. The North Goa MP said MLAs will decide the CM issue after the election result.

Mr Naik said he is confident that the BJP will retain power. However, he said the Goa Suraksha Manch formed by RSS rebel Subhash Velingkar will eat into some of BJP’s vote bank.

But it will not damage BJP’s prospects as the impact will be miniscule, Mr Naik added. He said “majority of RSS cadre” is with the BJP and helping it in the elections.

Mr Naik said Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP will not have any major impact on the elections. “What is their campaign based on? They are only levelling allegations without proof.”

In the last Assembly elections, a significant number of Christians voted for the BJP. But this time, there is resentment among the community, in particular over the medium of language in primary education.

This was the main reason the GSM was formed by Mr Velingkar, who is pitching for Marathi and Konkani as the medium in all primary schools.

“We have fielded more Christian candidates than last time. Our deputy CM is from the community,” Mr Naik said.

He said the BJP government continued giving grants to 130 Christian primary schools. On Maharshtawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) snapping ties with the BJP ahead of the polls, Mr Naik said, “They (MGP) were right in their way and we (BJP) were right in our way. We tried our best, but they didn’t wait.”

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