City Corporation of Panaji (CCP) will go to polls on Sunday, with 31,504 voters casting their votes to select among the 95 candidates contesting from the CCP limits. As per the schedule released by the state election commission, the polls in the 30 wards will conclude on March 6 while the counting will be held on March 8.
The CCP poll will be closely monitored as national parties such as the BJP and the Congress have as usual jumped into the fray, setting-up party supported candidates under the banner of Panaji first and United Panaji Front respectively. And a former Congress leader and incumbent MLA from Santa Cruz, Atanasio (Babush) Monserrate has drawn an independent list of candidates under the banner of Panjim City Corporation Development Front (PCCDF). According to the poll manifesto by the above mentioned panels, BJP and will contest in all the 30 wards, Congress in 20, Atanasio-led panel in 30 seats and rest by the independents.
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On BJP’s front, the election campaigning is managed by Panaji MLA Sidharth Kuncalienker, who is locally known to be the protege of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. Kuncalienker, earlier serving as joint secretary to Parrikar, was strongly backed by the latter to replace him in the by-poll, when Parrikar left for Rajya Sabha membership from Lucknow as a preparatory for taking-up assignment at Union government.
The CCP election is crucial for the BJP as it would not only reflect on the vacuum created by Parrikar departure, but also stands as a public referendum on the performance of Kuncaleinker for his tenure, a little over a year.
The local pollsters claimed that the major challenge for the BJP would be to overcome the wrath of scores of aspirant who were turned down by the selection committee.
After a lot of flip-flops on deciding whether to support independent candidates or to float its own list, Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) finally put up a united fight under the banner of UNP. The party says it was a strategic decision to position only 20 candidates, but local political analyst say that the party has lost its popularity due to the infighting of top state leadership, dilly-dallying on even basic agendas or party position on certain matters and struggled to find suitable candidates.
Besides the need for an upliftment of morale of the party cadres, the Congress also faces serious threat from its former leader Atanasio (Babush) Monserrate, who is likely to split votes for the party.
Having expelled for anti-party activity from the GPCC last year during the assembly bypolls, Atanasio’s PCCDF can be a game changer for both BJP and Congress. He is said to have a stronghold on mobilising local public opinion, so much that the GPCC’s state leadership earlier had approached him to join hands for the CCP polls, but the talks were called off due to unspecified disagreement.
Though the independent leader claims his panel will win across 27 seats, uncertainity prevails as he seems to have severed ties with the party, unlike previous occasion when the Congress had supported his activity.