Election 2014: Goa set to vote after subdued campaign

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Goa
Panaji, April 10: Neither foregone conclusions nor overwhelming odds favour any particular individual or party as Goa goes to the polls April 12.

Compared to the heated campaigning and high-strung gimmicks which have marked India's election season ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, in Goa, political parties and their candidates were remarkably subdued and comparatively less vicious in their pre-poll campaign here.

The key candidates in both the North Goa and South Goa constituencies belong to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.

BJP's Shripad Naik, a three-time MP, who faces charges of being an ineffectual parliamentarian, appears to have a wafer thin edge over his rival, Ravi Naik of the Congress, whose alleged linkages to Goa's drug mafia, have clouded his campaign.

Naik, a former chief minister, had been fielded by the Congress to cut into the numerically powerful Bhandari caste votebank, which Shripad Naik is also keen on tapping.

The third candidate in the fray in North Goa is Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) Dattaram Desai, whose campaign has lacked the energy so synonymous with the Arvind Kejriwal-led party.

Until last year, Desai was a key Shripad Naik supporter. The more votes he pinches from his former mentor, the easier he makes it for the Congress candidate.

Former deputy chief minister Dayanand Narvekar, who resigned from the Congress shortly before the poll date was announced, is contesting on a Goa Democratic Forum ticket and Suhas Naik of the Communist Party of India (M) are likely to be the also-rans in the contest.

In the South Goa constituency, the contest is even more spread out, with 12 contestants in the fray.

Aleixo Reginaldo, who replaced sitting MP Francisco Sardinha as the Congress candidate, is finding the going not so easy in the South Goa constituency which has returned a Congress candidate 10 times in 14 Lok Sabha polls. On 12 instances, the candidate has been a Catholic.

Statistically, the going should have been good for Reginaldo but for a concerted and sustained effort made by the BJP and its candidate Narendra Savoikar to win over the Catholic and Congress friendly constituency.

Savoikar, who lost to Sardinha in 2009, appears to be better prepared this time round. A last-minute missive by the influential Roman Catholic Church, directing the 27 percent-odd Catholic population not to vote for "communal politics" has however dented the BJP's march in South Goa.

The Church's attack against Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi for their fake claims of good governance and promotion of personality cults could come as a shot in the arm for the Congress in its final round of campaigning.

Former chief minister Churchill Alemao who resigned from the Congress after the party refused to field his daughter from South Goa is now contesting on an All India Trinamool Congress ticket.

Alemao has been elected twice from South Goa, but has over the years lost the chutzpah, which made him a giant-killing Catholic leader for nearly two decades. Congressmen however claim that Alemao is doing the BJP a favour by contesting the elections, because he is expected to eat into the Catholic vote, which is so critical for the Congress party's success.

AAP's Swati Kerkar and tribal leader Govind Gaude are the other contestants of note in South Goa.

Goa has over 1.06 million registered voters, who are expected to cast the ballot at any of the 1,622 polling stations spread across 1,152 polling station locations April 12.

IANS

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