Panaji: The Goan capital seems to have become an electoral hunting ground for IIT-Bombay alumni.
After former chief minister and IIT alumnus Manohar Parrikar, a five-time MLA from Panaji, gave up the seat after his elevation to the union cabinet last November, another graduate from the same Indian Institute of Technology, Samir Kelekar, has now thrown his hat in the ring.
Kelekar, five years Parrikar's junior at the elite technology institute located at Powai, in Mumbai, however has an uphill task against him in the Panaji byelection, where he is contesting as an independent against sitting mayor Surendra Furtado of the Congress and the BJP's Sidarth Kunkolienker, who until recently was Parrikar's political aide.
"It's not going to be a cakewalk, but it's an electorate of just 30,000. It's a small constituency and we have volunteers. It is doable," Kelekar told a news agency shortly before filing his nomination earlier this week.
Kelekar's optimism stems not just from the small collective of civil society activists who have thrown their weight behind the Information Technology (IT) consultant but also from a trail of let-downs and failed promises which his IIT-B senior has left in his wake before taking up the defence ministry brief.
"It is a bit surprising and disappointing that an IITian would not want to keep his promises. Much more was expected from an IITian like Parrikar and it is quite disappointing, but I will keep my promises," Kelekar said.
Asked why the people should believe in yet another IITian's word, especially when his predecessor was dubbed by the opposition and civil society as a U-turn specialist, Kelekar said: "IIT is just one part of my pitch. For most people, IIT is the be all and end all. Before I went to IIT, I had a huge level of social consciousness and as a professional I have the proven experience of getting things done."
Kelekar, after his BTech, studied at the Ivy league Columbia University. After moving to Bangalore in 1995, he worked at tech companies like Motorola and Alcatel.
Kelekar was also in the forefront of a freedom of speech campaign last year after police threatened to arrest a Facebooker for making inflammatory comments on the social networking site against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then chief minister Parrikar.
Part of his poll campaign promise, he says, is to create a conducive environment for start-ups and make Panaji a Wi-Fi city, apart from promising to tackle other issues like garbage, traffic snarls and the like.
"Not much has happened in Panaji over the last two decades under Parrikar as MLA and chief minister. It's time that changed," Kelekar said.
Polling for the Panaji by-election will be held on Feb 13.