Panaji: The battle for BJP's next chief minister in Goa has just got trickier. Some Catholic legislators in the party are rooting for a Catholic leader as the successor to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar who is poised to become India's next defence minister.
Even as the names of Health Minister Laxmikant Parsenkar and Assembly Speaker Rajendra Arlekar appear to have made the cut for the top position, three out of the six Catholic legislators in the BJP on Friday demanded that a Catholic legislator should be made the chief minister.
"It will send a great message to the rest of the country that the BJP has a minority chief minister, especially with another round of state elections around the corner," BJP legislator from Calangute, Michael Lobo, told the media.
The Bharatiya Janata Party "will be able to erase the communal tag once and for all", Lobo said. Lobo is rooting for Deputy Chief Minister Francis D'Souza for the chief ministerial position.
Lobo was one of the 20 BJP legislators who met formally at the state assembly where Parrikar told them about his impending departure.
The meeting where legislators of the ruling party will officially choose their chief ministerial candidate and forward it to the party's highest decision-making body -- the parliamentary board -- will be held Saturday.
Incidentally, only Francis D'Souza, who was due to arrive Friday afternoon from an overseas trip, was missing from the meeting. BJP sources said D'Souza would attend Parrikar's last cabinet meeting due later Friday.
Glen Ticlo, the BJP legislator from Aldona in North Goa, also supported the candidature of the deputy chief minister, calling it an excellent idea to promote someone from a minority faith.
"It will be excellent if the deputy chief minister is made the chief minister. But if someone else is selected, we will be supportive too," Ticlo told IANS.
Ticlo, a first time legislator, made a further pitch for widening the scope of cabinet opportunities to first-time legislators too. Parrikar had made it a norm not to allow first-time party legislators as ministers in his cabinet.
"We are capable. The rule should be re-looked," he said.
Another Catholic legislator, Carlos Almeida, from Vasco, a port town 35 km from Panaji, said it would be natural progression if the deputy chief minister was promoted to chief minister.
"A son usually takes over from the father, it is as natural as that," Almeida told a news agency.
Environment Minister Alina Saldanha, a Catholic herself, is against making religion a yardstick for political appointments.
"Performance and capability alone should matter," she said, when asked about demands by several Catholic legislators to promote D'Souza as chief ministerial candidate.
Speaker Rajendra Arlekar too also shot down the theory saying a person's religion should not matter in such matters. "The party has never made such a distinction."
Six out of the BJP's 21 legislators are Catholic. In a state where 26 percent of the population is Catholic, the BJP's strategy to allot an unprecedented number of ticket to Catholics and partner with independent Catholic candidates in the 2012 Assembly polls resulted in the party winning a never-before majority in the 40-member Goa legislature.