PANAJI: For the first time in more than a decade, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Goa has stepped into poll gear without projecting its chief ministerial candidate.
After propping up its poster boy, technocrat Manohar Parrikar, as the undisputed chief ministerial candidate for more than a decade now, the opposition BJP has now said the slot was open and they would be finalising a candidate soon.
"We have all options open. As and when we decide on we will let you know," Arun Jaitley, a top party leader and leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, has said in the presence of Parrikar and three-time MP from North Goa Shripad Naik, who has been challenging Parrikar's authority on state turf.
Naik, a former union minister of state for civil aviation, told IANS he was keen on re-entering state politics and even identified the newly created assembly constituency of Porvorim - this is the first election after the delimitation of constituencies - as his favoured seat.
"I am waiting for the party to take a decision. If they approve my coming to state politics or not, I will go as per what they say," Naik said.
Parrikar has meanwhile scoffed at reports of a rift between the two, calling it a figment of media imagination.
Both Naik and Parrikar were the cornerstones around which the party was built through the 1980s in Goa.
Naik has a following among the Bahujan Samaj, essentially the large-in-number Bhandari community, which is a significant vote block spread liberally throughout the state.
Parrikar has been the acceptable face of the party, with a diehard following among the intelligentsia and the upper class and is a draw even among Christian voters, who account for nearly 25 percent of Goa's vote pie.
Party sources said the rift between the two could affect the party's electoral chances and cloak-and-dagger between the two factions during the poll run-up was already affecting intra-party discipline.
"Both leaders appeal significantly to different sections of society and the party cannot afford to antagonise either. We are working on a compromise formula which may be acceptable to both," a senior BJP functionary said.
Polls to the 40 constituencies in Goa will be held March 3. The BJP currently has 12 seats in the assembly.