MANDREM: As he goes about campaigning in his constituency of Mandrem at the northern tip of Goa, chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar has two shadows looming over him.
As he’s not the declared chief ministerial candidate of the BJP, he has to contend with relentless speculation that defence minister Manohar Parrikar will be paradropped back to Goa to take over the reins. And in Mandrem, he has to contend with the long shadow cast by the state’s first chief minister, Dayanand Bandodkar, still remembered for the work he did here.
Parsekar has won this seat three times. A former health minister of the state, he was appointed chief minister in 2014 when incumbent Parrikar was drafted into the Narendra Modi cabinet as defence minister. Now there’s talk of Parrikar coming back, with BJP president Amit Shah making a rather ambiguous statement last week that if the party retains the state, the new government will “function under Parrikar, irrespective of his posting”.
In Mandrem itself, Parsekar faces a close contest from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), once preeminent in Goa when its government was led by Bandodkar, but much reduced now. The party wriggled out of an alliance with the BJP in December last year.
The MGP is trying to regain this constituency which had been its bastion till the 1998 Assembly polls, when a Congress candidate ousted it from here. As Goan constituencies go, it is a middling vote district, with about 32,000 voters. It has sent out two chief ministers to the Assembly: The first was Dayanand Bandodkar, who became CM in 1963 and the second is Parsekar.
Mandrem is a coastal tourist spot with two fine beaches and significant development, which is still attributed to Bandodkar.
The first chief minister, popularly known as Bhausaheb, was not a native of Mandrem but was drawn here by family connections. His work is still remembered. Says Sajo Pagi, an 81-year-old freedom fighter, “It was a different world then. We rallied behind Bhausaheb and he proved us absolutely right. The kind of development he did in this constituency during his tenure can be seen even now.”
The MGP may have slid from power, but a significant number of people here still support it.
“The voters were confused after the MGP struck an alliance with the BJP. But now that the pact has come undone, they are back with the MGP,” claimed 69-year-old Shridhar Mandrekar, the MGP candidate from Mandrem.
Parsekar himself acknowledges Bhausaheb’s work, but added that the party is on the wane.While the shadow of Parrikar looms over his own future, Parsekar goes about leveraging the possibility of him remaining the CM after the Feb. 4 vote. “If you vote for another candidate, he will only be an MLA, not the CM,” he says.