BJP faces a new stumbling block for Panaji municipal polls; Parrikar’s son


Panaji, March 4 : Late Manohar Parrikar’s bastion, Panaji, may be in the throes of chaos, thanks to a series of fast-paced political developments over the last two years, but the spectre of the former Defence Minister continues to loom large over the picturesque state capital, which goes to municipal polls later this month.

Amid the confusion over a panel of candidates floated unofficially (the municipal polls are not being held on party lines) by the BJP and another panel, comprising of BJP rebels and AAP, Congress sympathisers, the former four-term Chief Minister’s son, Utpal, on Thursday said that he would provide “personal support” to some candidates contesting from the anti-BJP panel.

Utpal Parrikar also faulted the Bharatiya Janata Party for letting down dedicated BJP workers by sidelining them in ticket allotment for the municipal elections. Parrikar said that he had provided “personal support” to some candidates, some of whom are contesting on the anti-BJP panel.

“My support can be for candidates on both panels, but that would be ‘personal support’ as a citizen. It is not public support which can be used for canvassing,” Utpal Parrikar said on Thursday.

The former Defence Minister’s son also used an analogy linked to former US President Donald Trump to explain the level of confusion in the BJP rank and file in Panaji.

“For example, there is one ward where there is a person who has worked for several years. His name is not on the panel. The block president of the Congress is on the panel (instead),” Utpal said. A

“Donald Trump had used a word in a tweet ‘covfefe’ (in 2017). No one knew what it meant. It was a typo. It was meant to be kerfuffle. I know now what kerfuffle is. It is the present situation in Panaji,” Utpal said.

For nearly three decades, Manohar Parrikar has been synonymous with Panaji and its politics.

Parrikar first won the constituency in the 1994 assembly elections and retained it consistently until 2014, when he was elevated to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet as Defence Minister. In his absence, the seat was represented twice by his aide Sidharth Kuncalienkar. On his return to state politics in 2017, Parrikar was once again elected as Panaji MLA. He died in office in 2019.

After his death however, the BJP lost the subsequent bypoll to Congress’ Atanasio Monserrate, BJP’s arch foe in 2019. Months after his victory, Monserrate joined the BJP along with nine other Congress MLAs and continues to represent the ruling party in Panaji.

Utpal Parrikar, who was denied a ticket by the BJP at last minute, now says that it is unfair to accuse him of rebelling against the party — by supporting candidates from a rival panel.

“If I wanted to rebel, I would have rebelled at the time of assembly elections. I would have the support of the people,” Utpal said.

“My stand is clear. I have not supported any panel. I have given support to individuals on a personal level… Other politicians have political muscle power. I have political goodwill of the people of Panaji,” Parrikar’s son, who is a member of the BJP state’s executive committee said.

When asked if he had taken up the issue of allotting municipal poll tickets to ineligible candidates with the party high command, Utpal said: “I have raised objections with the party president”.

Responding to the charge made by Utpal, a senior BJP official said that the municipal polls were not being conducted on party lines. “He is free to support whoever he feels like. The BJP is not officially participating in these elections,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Polls to 11 municipal councils and one municipal corporation — Panaji — are scheduled to be held on March 20. The municipal polls are the last round of local body polls ahead of the state assembly elections which are scheduled to be held in early 2022.