Amid LS hype, bypolls hold key to Goa’s political stability

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Panaji, April 2 (IANS) While India gears up for the Lok Sabha polls to install a new set of rulers in the Delhi durbar, in Goa, bypolls to three assembly constituencies which are also scheduled for April 23, may well decide the future of the BJP-led coalition government.

Goa’s political tantrums, which lay dormant for nearly two decades after the turbulent 1990s – a period which saw 13 chief ministers in 10 years – could well be in for yet another spell of revival in case the BJP loses more than one out of the three bypolls in the Shiroda, Mandrem and Mapusa assembly constituencies.

While bypolls were necessitated in Shiroda and Mandrem after sitting Congress MLAs Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte quit the Congress and joined the BJP last year, the Mapusa bypoll was caused by the death of BJP MLA Francis D’Souza in February.

“The BJP is keen on increasing its legislative strength by deceit by snatching MLAs from other political parties, including those who are in alliance with them. That’s because they know that they have been so poor as a government that they cannot win elections anymore…,” Goa Congress spokesperson Trajano D’Mello told IANS.

Four MLAs, two each from the MGP and the Congress, have joined the BJP over the last six months even as the saffron party continues to face pressure from the Opposition, as well as its own allies, in its bid to stay in power.

In the Goa assembly, which currently has 36 members, the Congress and BJP are tied with 14 legislators each. Three MLAs from Goa Forward, a regional party, three independent MLAs make up for the rest of the treasury benches.

On paper, former deputy Chief Minister Sudin Dhavalikar – now the lone Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party member, after two MLAs quit the regional party and joined the BJP in a midnight coup on March 27 – continues to support the ruling coalition, with the party not having formally informed Governor Mridula Sinha about the withdrawal of support following last week’s humiliation.

The MGP’s top leaders have accused the BJP of raiding its MLAs like “dacoits” and accused the ruling party of harassing them using central government law and tax enforcement agencies, while maintaining ambiguity about the support of its lone MLA to the government.

The split in the MGP came at the end of a spiralling tussle with the BJP leadership over the Shiroda assembly seat, which the president of the regional party, Deepak Dhavalikar, has been keen on contesting.

A poor showing in the assembly bypolls by the BJP, and a potential weakening of its traction in the corridors of power in Delhi, would lead the Congress to a stronger and numerically strategic position to launch a bid for power. If the Congress performs poorly, it will continue to languish in the opposition, with a re-engerised BJP possibly poaching a few more of its MLAs.

According to D’Mello, the Congress is confident of its performance in the three bypolls, which he believes will open the gates to power in the coastal state.

“After the byelection results are out, we are very confident of forming the next government,” D’Mello said.

The BJP, which was the first party off the blocks in announcing its candidates for the bypolls, maintains that barring the Shiroda seat, which became the flashpoint for the split, the BJP was poised to fare well in the two other constituencies.

“We are still working to sort out the Shiroda situation. But other than that, the BJP is in a good position to win the other two bypolls,” state Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Sadanand Shet Tanavade said.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be reached at [email protected])

–IANS

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