A day after the ruling BJP vacated Panaji assembly seat for Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, necessitating a bypoll, the Congress is trying to rope in its expelled leader and former minister Atanasio Monserratte to take on the BJP stalwart. Sitting Panaji MLA Siddharth Kuncalienkar yesterday resigned from his seat, paving the way for Parrikar to contest the by-election and enter the Goa Assembly. AICC secretary A Chellakumar, who is in Goa, met Monserratte this afternoon to discuss the possibility of the former MLA contesting the upcoming bypoll on the Congress ticket.
“It has been decided that whoever contests Panaji by-poll, he will do so on the Congress ticket. We held preliminary talks with Monserratte today and he sounded positive,” Challakumar told reporters.
When contacted, Monserratte said he was indeed “positive” about contesting from Panaji constituency, but would announce his decision in the next couple of days. The Election Commission is yet to announce dates for the by-election. Monserratte, a minister in the erstwhile Digambar Kamat-led Congress government, was expelled from the Congress in year 2015 for ‘anti-party’ activities. He was then representing St Cruz seat.
He then formed his own outfit, United Goans Party, during the recently-held assembly elections. Monserratte lost to Kuncalienkar in Panaji constituency with a narrow margin. Parrikar took over as chief minister in March after resigning as defence minister, after the BJP, which failed to get a majority on its own, succeeded in cobbling together a coalition with the support of regional outfits.
He has to get elected to the Assembly within six months for continuing as the chief minister. The Panaji constituency has been Parrikar’s bastion. He represented the seat from 1994 till 2014, before he moved to the Centre as defence minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet.
Kuncalienkar, who was then attached to the office of Parrikar, was given the ticket by the BJP to contest the by-election in the constituency, left vacant by Parrikar. He retained the seat in the state Assembly elections held in February this year, though his winning margin thinned.