Monday 20 May 2024

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Politics | Lok Sabha '99

Khalap on Slippery Ground

 

He is quite desperate to go the Lok Sabha once again, after having a sensational tenure as the union minister in 1996. But his action of joining the Congress has pushed him on such a slippery ground that he would be himself held responsible if he loses.

Ramakant Khalap, the Congress candidate this time, appears to have miscalculated feelings of the electorate while getting carried away with the simple calculation to win the North Goa (Panaji) seat, which he had lost in '98 to the Congress as the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party candidate.

His erstwhile regional outfit is not in the fray this time. But rather than this factor making his condition strong, the Bharatiya Janata Party may benefit more if the mood among the electorate in the interior areas is any indication.

Hordes of young turks and even old and veteran MGP men have been joining the BJP, cursing Khalap for ditching the MGP for his personal benefits. Khalap however is not left all alone as he has partly succeeded in taking quite a few cadres along with him.

His calculation was simple. Though he was pushed to third position last time while the BJP lost to the Congress by only 420 votes, he combines his 62,000 votes to that of Ravi Naik (Congress MP) - around 68,000 - taking the grand total to around 1,30,000. It leaves the BJP with only 68,000 to its credit while creating a gap of 62,000.

But politics is not mere arithmetic, especially when North Goa has no tradition of electing the same party or the candidate consecutively for the second time. Rather than voting in a traditional monotonous manner, this constituency has always chosen the candidate on the basis of merits and performance.

Khalap definitely has better merits than BJP candidate Shripad Naik in terms of Parliamentary performance. But the former union minister has a challenge of countering the strong wave in favour of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and convince his former MGP men why they should not go with the BJP.

As they lost the seat last time by hardly 420 votes, the BJP cadres are moving in a much more organised fashion this time, to consolidate as well as to strengthen its base. It had secured a lead in five Assembly segments, similar to what Khalap had gained, while giving lead to the Congress in six segments.

Khalap would definitely once again secure lead in his Pernem taluka, consisting of three segments, which has also elected him the MLA this time. Former chief minister Pratapsing Rane is also working hard for the Congress as his brother-in-law hails from Sandur (segment of Bellary), which may help him to impress party president Sonia Gandhi. His Sattari taluka may thus also go for the Congress.

But problem lies in rest of the three talukas, out of which Bicholim is the BJP stronghold whereas opinion appears to be divided in coastal talukas like Bardez and Tiswadi among the Congress and the BJP. Apparently this voter would decide the winner.

More than the BJP, Khalap is also facing tough time due to Nationalist Congress Party candidate Sadanand Malik, his old party colleague, and the CPI candidate Christopher Fonseca, a popular trade union leader. Though both of them are not expected to perform well, it would ultimately affect the Congress and not the BJP.

The Congress victory would thus depend upon how Khalap reverses the anti-Khalap trend in his favour while winning over people by swimming against the tide, which presently is in favour of the BJP. Only his manipulative skills can save him on the slippery ground he is walking on.


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