Goa’s most prestigious assembly seat of capital Panjim, retained by former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar since 1994, went to Congress after 25 years. Congress candidate Atanasio Monserrate won by a narrow margin of 1,758 votes. Monserrate polled 8,748 votes against BJP candidate Sidharth Kuncalienkar’s 6,990 votes. AAP’s Valmiki Naik and Subhash Velingkar of the Goa Suraksha Manch polled 236 and 516 votes, respectively.
The BJP, which hoped Kuncalienkar would win, was decimated in all three rounds, with Monserrate leading from round one itself. “It just shows that without (Manohar)Parrikar they cannot win in the most important seat,” Monserrate told reporters soon after the figures were announced. Such was the confidence that by 10:45 am, firecrackers outside the counting station announced his victory even as the official figures for the final rounds were being counted. The loss of Panjim seat pinched the BJP which won all the three assembly seats of Mandrem, Shiroda and Mapusa — all of which went to polls along with parliamentary seats. With this, the BJP now has 17 MLAs against Congress’ 15.
Parrikar’s son Utpal who briefly campaigned for Kuncalienkar posted on Facebook soon after the results were announced, saying “…loss of Panaji seat is very painful…I am reminded of words uttered by our leader Atalji when BJP was reduced to two seats: Andhera chutega, Suraj niklega, kamal khilega. So no need to get disheartened. In democracy, collective wisdom always lies with the people. We have to work hard and win back people’s trust.” Kuncalienkar who finally walked out after the results were announced made a hasty exit. “I accept the decision given by Panjim and take the responsibilty for the defeat…we will need to work harder for Panaji and we will start the work immediately.”
According to political columnist Kishor Naikgaonkar, the decision to give the ticket to Kuncalienkar instead of Parrikar’s son Utpal also seems to have proved to be a wrong decision. “Utpal had already started campaigning and also personally visited homes of many Panjim voters. But by the end with his name being dropped, a faction in BJP didn’t take it too well which also led to the defeat.” Another thing Naikgaonkar pointed out is that Panjim always chose Parrikar as an individual and the vote never went to BJP, but to Parrikar. “Panjim also is a very peculiar constituency as it is represented by all margins of the society and the area is divided based on issues and communities. Everyone has gone for Congress showing the mood of Goa, which also plays an important role. In other constituencies, the votes have largely gone to individuals while in Panjim, this time in the absence of Parrikar, the votes have gone for the party.”
Looking at margins too, Panjim stood at 1,054 votes in the previous general election with BJP winning, but with this term giving Congress a margin over 1,758, the ruling party has much to work.
Parrikar’s victory margin during 2017 bypoll stood at 4,803, with this election margin showing the party’s “Parrikar legacy” poll pitch not having been accepted by the over 22,000 voters in Panjim.