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Congress, new forces challenge BJP in its victory re-run bid

PANAJI, Jan 29:  With the entry of Aam Admi Party, the fight for February 4 Assembly election in Goa has become a four-cornered contest where the ruling BJP is eyeing another term and facing challenge from Congress and some new players.
While BJP is fighting the poll on development plank, showcasing its work in infrastructure and other sectors, main Opposition Congress is harping on “failures” and “unfulfilled” promises of the Government.
BJP is contesting 36 seats out of the 40 and has extended support to four independents. The saffron outfit has centred its entire campaign around the slogan ‘once again BJP’, seeking another term in power.
The Amit Shah-led party, which had won a clear mandate in the 2012 polls in alliance with regional heavyweight Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), is vying for votes on the back of its prominent infrastructural works and popular social welfare schemes launched over the last five years.
Ahead of the poll announcement, a series of ‘Vijay Sankulp’ rallies were held along with several corner meetings attended by senior Central leaders like Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani.
BJP’s high-voltage campaign has so far seen Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, among others, addressing rallies in support of party nominees.
Parrikar, the architect of BJP’s victory in 2012 who later took over as Chief Minister, was inducted in the Union Cabinet in 2014 and given the key defence portfolio.
The 61-year-old IIT graduate-turned-politician has been camping in his home State to pitch for his party aggressively even as speculation is rife he might return as Chief Minister if his party BJP wins the polls.
With just five days remaining for the big day, BJP leaders like Amit Shah and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will address public meetings early next week.
Congress, on the hand, is fighting on 37 seats, and has so far witnessed a lacklustre campaign. The party is pinning hopes on Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who will address an election rally at Mapusa town tomorrow.
Clarifying about its mellowed tone during campaigning, senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh said the party has decided to go for ‘subdued campaign’ and door-to-door visits.
The pack of nominees of Congress for this poll is a mix of old and new faces. Except for a couple of places, it has not encountered rebellion.
The party has left at bay like-minded force Goa Forward, which had made desperate attempts to seal of poll truck, while it okayed seat-sharing agreement in two constituencies – Atanasio Monserratte (Panaji) and Rohan Khaunte (Porvorim).
Wooing voters with lucrative poll promises, its manifesto mentions ban on casinos, free petrol for students, special status, defreezing lands given to Special Economic Zone developers among others.
New entrant AAP will look at repeating its historic Delhi win of 2015 with the party contesting 39 seats.
Party national convenor Arvind Kejriwal, senior AAP leaders Manish Sisodia, Kumar Vishwas are often camping in the state.
Party workers sporting the trademark ‘topi’ can be seen across the state reflecting some influence in the tourist state.
Clinging on its pet issue of corruption, the Kejriwal- led party among its poll promises has assured a ‘corruption free government’ and ban on casinos, which has been a prominent issue for the saffron parties.
AAP has projected Elvis Gomes as its chief ministerial candidate, who is contesting from Cuncolim constituency.
The biggest surprise package in this election is poll alliance of three different forces – Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) and Shiv Sena.
BJP’s former ally, MGP had suffered a major fall out with the ruling party, making it anti-BJP.
RSS rebel and regional language crusader Subhash Velingkar-led GSM has made the issue of grants to English- medium schools as its poll plank and is supported by the Shiv Sena.
The Sudin Dhavalikar-led MGP has fielded 18 candidates and is harping on good governance. Dhavalikar is party’s chief ministerial face.
Beside the issue of grants to English schools, the joint manifesto of GSM and Sena promises ban on rave parties, Electronic Dance Music festivals and removal of casinos.
While MGP is contesting 18 seats, GSM will fight on six seats and Sena on four. (PTI)

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