In a major boost for the ruling BJP coalition, former MLA Atanasio (Babush) Monserrate has joined the Goa Forward Party, in a way, clearing the decks for Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to win the upcoming Panaji Assembly seat without any significant contest, for now. Babush was reportedly in talks with the Congress Party to contest against Parrikar. Goa Forward, which has three MLAs in the 38-member Assembly, is part of the ruling coalition and will back Parrikar in the upcoming bypoll.
Speaking at a press conference in Panaji, Babush praised Vijai Sardesai suggesting he was the only hope the state had to protect what it calls Goenkarponn or Goanness. “Vijai was single-handedly fighting as the Opposition (in the last Assembly). He is trying to realise the dreams of Goans. If you see the common minimum programme that Goa Forward has put forth, it shows the reversal of the policies of the previous government. The party is here to protect Goanness,” Babush said.
Vijai, on his part, said one could well call Parrikar the Panaji MLA as they would back him in the election. “We will be supporting Parrikar in the bye-election. Monserrate joining Goa Forward is a major political development that will give the ruling coalition a stability certificate.”
Speaking to IndianExpress.com, Goa Congress President Shantaram Naik said it was Babush’s choice to join whichever party he wished too. “Yes, we offered the ticket to Babush, but he is not a member of the Congress. He is free to decide which party he wants to join and that is his choice. The Congress Party has not yet officially announced a candidate for the seat. That the party was considering offering Babush the ticket was made known in May this year when AICC Goa desk in-charge Chella Kumar, speaking at a press conference at the party headquarters in Panaji, had said: “If he wishes, we will discuss, naturally. He was a Congress MLA only a few months ago.”
On being asked about his remarks that he would contest on a Congress ticket, Babush said the Congress Party was not serious about reviving itself in the state. “The Congress is basically not serious (in announcing the seat). I have been meeting several leaders but they don’t seem serious… there are many Congress leaders who are frustrated. Two senior Congress leaders are running the party as proprietorship. These two leaders feed the Congress High Command on what is happening in Goa.”
The former St Cruz MLA had joined the United Goans Party in January this year when he contested against BJP’s Siddharth Kuncaliencar and lost by a narrow margin of 1069 votes. In March, he reportedly said he was going to join the Congress and contest against Parrikar should he contest from the Panaji seat.
Babush’s joining is significant as there was wide speculation that him contesting against Parrikar could well pose a threat to a seat the BJP has been winning since the early 1990s. Parrikar is currently a Rajya Sabha member and he will have to resign to contest the Assembly bye-election scheduled to be held by September this year.