The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not named a chief ministerial candidate yet for the Goa assembly polls on February 4.
Incumbent Laxmikant Parsekar has hence one major shadow looming over him as he goes about campaigning in his constituency of Mandrem.
Parsekar is faced with persistent speculation that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will be brought back to Goa to take over the reins.
He has won the Mandrem seat three times.
Parsekar, a former state health minister, was appointed the Chief Minister in 2014 when incumbent Parrikar was drafted into the Modi cabinet.
Amit Shah’s recent statement that if his party retains power, the new government would “function under Parrikar, irrespective of his posting” is bound to create confusion in the poll-bound state.
Parsekar is expected to face a close contest from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) in Mandrem, as both sides broke their alliance in December last year.
Mandrem had been an MGP bastion till the 1998 Assembly polls.
Experts opined that the voters were confused following the abrupt decision to part ways by both sides.
However, Shah’s vociferous support for Parrikar has come for severe criticism, the Congress rebutted Shah, arguing that “Goa is not a union territory to be governed by Delhi.”
“We are not a Union territory to be ruled from Delhi,” state’s opposition leader Pratapsinh Rane equipped.
“Parrikar is already ruling the state through remote control. He spends the weekend here since he became Union Minister,” Rane said.
State BJP chief Vinay Tendulkar claimed that Goans want Parrikar back.
Defending the BJP chief, Tendulkar said, “Shah must have said it depending on the demands. At present, Parrikar and Shripad Naik and Nitin Gadkari are leading the campaign in Goa.”
Meanwhile, the BJP has focused its campaign on the developmental issue. In his Panaji address, the Prime Minister listed out a slew of development works the BJP government has completed.
The BJP stressed that this was possible only because of the political stability in the state under the party rule from 2012.
The party also made it clear that it would not join the identity issues raised by the breakaway Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) which has made language and Goan culture the main theme of its campaign.
Unlike 2012, it has skirted issues like casino ban, indicating that it would instead focus on the economic potential in the gaming industry.
“We have learnt a lesson from our 2012 manifesto that we should not make impractical promises,” a BJP leader said requesting anonymity.
At the Panaji rally, Modi asked for a “comfortable majority” for the BJP to continue on the path of stability and underdevelopment.
Parrikar compared BJP’s nine-year reign with years of rule by MGP, Congress and other parties.
“After getting the status of a state in 1987, Goa had its first election in 1989 which Congress won. But in the next 10 years, the state had as many as 12 chief ministers,” Parrikar said.
The party’s stand on some emotive and cultural issues became apparent when Parsekar hit out at the opposition, accusing them of trying to rake up “language and communal issues to disturb communal harmony.”
The stable BJP rule in the state has laid a solid foundation for development, he said.
On the issues of unemployment and migration for jobs, a major concern in the state, the party emphasised on more development in the spheres of social sectors, tourism and infrastructure to address the problem.
However, irrespective of the outcome, Parrikar is fully aware of the onerous task of guiding his party to victory.
For the BJP, the situation in Goa is different from the four other poll-bound states, since it is under pressure to retain power.
Also, a win in other poll-bound states would add feathers to the party's cap, but losing Goa may mean erosion in its strong base in the state.
Parrikar, who served Goa as its chief minister for close to seven years since he was first sworn-in in 2000, is also a successful strategist. He made no effort to form a post-poll coalition despite his party having emerged as the single largest party in 2007.
It paid rich dividends as BJP won a clear majority five years later. It won 21 seats despite contesting in only 27 constituencies in the 40-member Assembly.