Updated: January 14, 2022 1:09:48 am
For months ahead of the 14 February Goa Assembly elections, Utpal Parrikar has been waiting for the BJP to green-light his entry into the electoral arena.
The son of former defence minister and three-time Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, Utpal has staked his claim to a BJP ticket for the elections from Goa’s capital Panaji — the constituency from where his late father was elected five times since 1995.
For the ruling BJP, conceding Utpal’s demand will be a tough call given the claims of other formidable party aspirants for the Panaji seat.
This was reflected when the BJP’s Goa in-charge and ex-Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis said Wednesday that the BJP does not give election tickets to candidates just because they are party leaders’ children.
“Manohar bhai did a lot of work to establish the BJP in Goa. But nobody gets a ticket in BJP just because they are the son of Manohar bhai or some leader. If they have worked, they are considered. I cannot take a decision regarding this. Only our Parliamentary Board can take this decision,” Fadnavis said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Utpal said he did not want to comment on the statement made by Fadnavis, who, he pointed out, is a senior BJP leader. “If I wanted a ticket only as Parrikar’s son, I would have insisted on that the last time (2019) when it was denied to me through the back door. Since 1994, a lot many BJP workers have toiled with my father. And if you see on the ground, they are now toiling with me,” said Utpal.
He said after completing his door-to-door canvassing on Wednesday, “I am unable to tolerate the level of degradation of the value system in Goan politics. And hence, I am asking for a ticket because it is always better to work from within.”
This is the first time that the BJP is going to the polls without Parrikar, who had been instrumental in bringing the party to power in Goa repeatedly, clinching his first tenure as the CM in 2000.
Parrikar, who went on to become one of Goa’s tallest leaders on the national stage, passed away in March 2019. He has been invoked in their speeches by every senior BJP leader visiting the state ahead of the polls, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Four BJP MLAs who have now quit the party said it was not the same without Parrikar.
The 40-year-old Utpal, Parrikar’s elder son, has been meeting people in Panaji and making temple visits, with his banners coming up across the capital since Diwali. In November, he had exuded confidence that the saffron party will field him from Panaji, although he had then also said, after a temple visit with his party supporters, that “Manohar Parrikar never got anything easily in his life. It appears that I too will have to fight. I may have to take some difficult decisions and I prayed for the strength to do that.”
That the junior Parrikar is keen on contesting the Assembly election from his father’s constituency was reinforced by his 5 January tweet that said: “Now no looking back…”
After completing his Masters in Electrical Engineering and working in the USA for a decade, Utpal returned to India in 2011. And he is now looking forward to launch his electoral innings.
“Many party workers have expressed their feelings to me and they want me to represent them from Panaji,” Utpal has said, his confidence stemming from such BJP workers from Panaji, who see him as the “natural successor” of “Bhai”, as Parrikar was fondly called by them.
However, deciding the party candidate from Panaji is not going to be easy for the BJP. In the race for the high-profile constituency is incumbent MLA Atanasio alias Babush Monserrate. After Parrikar’s death, Monserrate had
contested the Panaji by-election on the Congress ticket and wrested it from the BJP. He, however, subsequently joined the ten Congress MLAs who defected to the BJP.
At a recent BJP workers’ meeting in Panaji, Monserrate’s position in the party seemed to have been cemented. However, earlier this week he put off the launch of his campaign until the party’s announcement of its candidate in the constituency.
There is another contender in the race for the Panaji seat. Sidharth Kuncalienkar who won the seat in 2017 for the BJP, had vacated it after Parrikar, then defence minister, decided to return to the state politics in 2018. Between Kuncalienkar and Utpal, the BJP had chosen to field the former for the 2019 bypoll necessitated by Parrikar’s death. The BJP had, however, lost the seat to Monserrate, then a Congress candidate.
Meanwhile, Utpal said on Thursday that beyond winnability, qualities like integrity and character should also be considered while giving someone an election ticket. “What is happening in Goa politics is not acceptable to me. Just winnability? Does integrity not matter? Character doesn’t matter? If a person with criminal antecedents is being given the ticket to represent the constituency held by Manohar Parrikar, should we sit at home? These are very important things and this is not just about Panaji. The political situation in Goa is not acceptable. It has to change. And that is why I am trying (to get a ticket),” he said.