BJP and Congress Sweat it Out for Manohar Parrikar's Panaji Seat

BJP and Congress Sweat it Out for Manohar Parrikar's Panaji Seat
Panaji: After the elections for Goa's two Lok Sabha seats, the BJP and the Congress are preparing for a face-off in the bypoll for Panaji Assembly constituency, which was held by former chief minister Manohar Parrikar.

The bypoll was necessitated after Parrikar's death in March. Refusing ticket to the late chief minister's son, Utpal, the BJP has fielded former MLA Siddharth Kunkolienkar.

Kunkolienkar has represented the seat in the absence of Parrikar in 2015 and 2017 assembly elections, when the latter was the Union defence minister.

He is pitted against Congress's Antanasio Monserratte, a former minister in state governments led by Parrikar and Digambar Kamat.

In the 2017 Goa Assembly elections, Kunkolienkar had defeated Monserratte, who had contested as an Independent and was supported by the Congress.

Parrikar wrested Panaji seat from the Congress 25 years ago and had held on it strongly ever since.

In the absence of strongman Parrikar, the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to reach out to the electorate.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant is camping in the state capital and has been seen mingling with the morning crowd at Mirmar beach on several occasions. Both the parties are confident of winning.

While the Congress hopes to benefit from the BJP's decision to not field Utpal, Kunkolienkar is counting on Parrikar's legacy and the development work done by the BJP government.

"With Utpal in the contest, the fight would have been difficult for us. Not that we would have lost the election, but the difficulty level would have been certainly high. Now, it's an easy run for us," Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) president Girish Chodankar told PTI.

Kunkolienkar is also upbeat about his chances. "We have our target fixed. We want to poll 10,000 votes and that will give us a winning margin. We are confident of getting it," he said.

Panaji has 22,000-plus voters, of which 15,000 turned up for voting in the last assembly elections.