Panaji, Oct 30 (UNI) The by-election to the Mormugao Parliamentary constituency in south Goa tomorrow is seen as a test of strength between the Congress and the BJP.
More than 5.6 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the by-election amid tight security in the constituency, considered the backbone of Goa's economy.
Former Chief Minister and Speaker Francisco Sardinha is pitted against former minister and noted gynaecologist Dr Wilfred Mesquita of the BJP in a four cornered contest, the other two being Independents.
As many as 2,79,127 are women voters out of a total 5,60,264 electorate in the constituency.
Of the 21 assembly segments in the constituency, Ponda has the highest 37,241 voters and Poinguinim the lowest 15,590 voters. Women outnumber men in nine segments.
Tight security arrangements have been made to facilitate smooth conduct of the polls at all the 590 booths.
Factionalism, in-fighting and poor turnout of voters at the election meetings overshadowed the Congress' campaign as against its rival BJP, which is trying to make inroads into the constituency dominated by the minority Catholic Christians.
The by-election is a sequel to the Congress rebel Churchill Alemao resigning from the Lok Sabha in May last, in his over-ambition to form government in Goa after the June 2 elections to the State Legislative Assembly on the regional outfit Save Goa Front (SGF) he was heading.
To his dismay, the SGF got only two seats - one for himself from Navelim and his colleague Reginaldo Laurenco from Curtorim. He had defeated former Education Minister and a giant in Goan politics Luizinho Faleiro while Mr Laurenco trounced another veteran, Francisco Sardinha.
Itching for power, Mr Alemao joined the Digambar Kamat-led coalition government as the PWD Minister after deserting the BJP-led Goa Democratic Alliance (GDA) purportedly on a condition that the Congress high command will offer the party ticket to his young daughter Valenka for contesting from Mormugao.
But, the Congress gave the ticket to the GPCC President and his staunch rival Francisco Sardinha at the last minute with Mr Alemao failing to ''merge'' the SGF with the Congress as agreed upon for issuing the ticket to his daughter.
Despite a partner in the coalition government, Mr Alemao made his absence conspicuous in all the election meetings held by the Congress, feeling humiliated as the party denied ticket to his daughter.
Incidentally, Dr Mesquita, who was till recently the strategist and the right hand man of Mr Alemao as SGF General Secretary, quit the SGF along with the party's founder President Sidhanath Bouyao following differences with Mr Alemao which they thought had converted the party into his fiefdom for selfish ends.
The duo were immediately admitted to the BJP and Dr Mesquita was given the party ticket as he represented the Christian community which could play a trump card among the south Goa electorate.
Dr Mesquita, who started his political career on the Maharashtrwadi Gomantak Party, seems to have been in the good books of the MGP as also the other regional outfit - United Goans Democratic Party.
The MGP, however, officially announced its support yesterday to Congress in the by-election with the Congress indicating withdrawal of the disqualification petition against Davlikar brothers.
The two MGP legislator brothers were forced to approach the Supreme Court challenging Speaker Pratapsinh Rane's order restraining them from voting in the crucial vote of confidence in the House on July 30 following a disqualification petition filed against them by a Congress legislator.
The legislator, Agnelo Fernandes, however, approached the apex Court stating that he was ready to withdraw the disqualification petition as the by-election process for Mormugao was underway.
The apex Court yesterday directed the Speaker to dispose of the disqualification petition within three weeks following the withdrawal notice issued by Mr Fernandes.
For Mr Sardinha, if elected, his immediate priority will be to move a private members' bill in the Lok Sabha for amending the ''Cruelty to Animals Act''.
On the other hand, the BJP had been sparing no effort to mobilise people's support against the establishment of Special Economic Zones which it said had been a drain on the precious resources like water, power and land in the already congested and tiny state of Goa.