Monday 17 June 2024

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Politics | Lok Sabha '98

Khalap-Alemao rivalry may prove suicidal for both


It’s not a conducive atmosphere for both the non-Congress sitting MPs here - union law minister Ramakant Khalap and strongman Churchill Alemao, though they have to fight all the candidates defeated in the last Assembly elections in Goa.

More than a threat from the locally ruling Congress or the less influential BJP, the rivalry between Khalap and Alemao, both belonging to the United Front, may prove to be a death knell for these highly ambitious politicians, who head separate regional outfits.

In the ’96 polls, Khalap won only by around 9000 votes against his weak Congress rival in a triangular contest. But this time he has to struggle hard to score over strong candidates of the ruling party as well as the BJP, besides Alemao’s United Goans Democratic Party, who had supported him in last elections.

Incensed with Khalap sabotaging his plans in the UF to get the ministerial berth allegedly with the help of Congress leader Sharad Pawar, Alemao is today determined to defeat him, even at the cost of getting expelled from the front for violating the guidelines not to contest against each other.

Sources however reveal that he has blessings of former prime minister Deve Gowda to defeat the union law minister, because the vacillating politician immediately shifted his allegiance to Gujral camp after Gowda’s fall.

But Khalap camp counters it, alleging that Alemao, heading a group of 11 independent MPs, was hobnobbing with the BJP to form the government, after Congress recently withdrew its support to the Gujral government.

The strongman has fielded Khalap’s former colleague in the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Babuso Gaonkar, belonging to the OBC community. Though the UGDP admits that he is a weak candidate, it’s enough to split Khalap’s votes.

The regional wave, which had brought 57 per cent electorate to the polling booth, has also died out in last 18 months while the law minister’s non-performance in the North Goa constituency may turn the last time’s sympathy wave into negative voting this time.

The BJP, which normally polls 16 to 17 per cent votes in Goa since Babri Masjid-Ramjanmbhoomi issue is raked up, has also fielded Khalap’s former MGP MLA, Pandurang Raut, belonging to his Maratha community.

Even the ruling Congress party has fielded Khalap’s another former MGP colleague Ravi Naik, who then split to head the Congress government before he miserably lost in ’94 polls. If this Bhandari community leader eats out MGP’s Bhandari vote bank in the North, then no one can save the law minister from losing.

The only hope he once again has however is rebel Congress leader Dr Wilfred de Souza, the deputy chef minister, who has already started flying white flag while blaming chief minister Pratapsisng Rane for not protecting interest of Goans during Congress rule.

It’s not a cake walk for Alemao too, who had swept the polls last time by defeating five-time Congress MP and minister Eduardo Faleiro by over 25,000 votes, while both the MGP and the BJP had lost its deposits. He has to now face Francisco Sardinha, the former Congress minister, who is popular even after losing ’94 Assembly polls against Alemao’s candidate.

The controversial MP has become very weak in Salcete, the main bastion of Catholic vote bank, including his former Assembly constituency of Benaulim, due to his brother-turned-MLA’s non-performance there. Even the schemes implemented through MP’s funds may not give him an edge there over the ruling Congress.

His only hope, similar to Khalap, is the rebels within the ruling party. Alemao’s close aides claim that at least two senior ministers and four MLAs among 10 ruling party legislators are working for the UGDP supremo. The little breakthrough he has made in the MGP bastions may also come to his rescue, provided Khalap does not field a strong person in the South.

While Khalap and Alemao, both the UF members, have crossed swords against each other, they may see Delhi again only if the infightings amongst the ruling Congress party are manipulated skilfully. Otherwise, it may be once again Congress from Goa. is now on Telegram & also Youtube. Kindly subscribe for free & remain updated.

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