PANAJI: The excitement that is usually palpable whenever the capital city gets into an election was lacking for the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) polls. Beneath the facade of indifferent calm, it was evident that this election was anything but a straight forward event.
For the first time in several years, the civic polls were held without former CM Manohar Parrikar. He was the Panaji MLA and used to be the rallying point for BJP karyakartas, councillors and neutral voters. Parrikar had the ability to iron out personal issues and formulate political equations where least expected, a skill that BJP sorely missed this time around.
This is also the first time that Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate has fielded a panel as the Panaji MLA and BJP member. Monserrate has held sway over CCP for three terms despite being the MLA of St Cruz or Taleigao, and was either with Congress or an independent MLA.
But what made the elections most interesting is the visible discord within the BJP camp. “As far as BJP is concerned, 100% of the karyakartas and supporters are not with me. Just 50% are with me, but it is no problem whatsoever. They are immaterial,” Monserrate said while visiting polling booths on a two-wheeler.
St Cruz MLA Antonio Fernandes was also seen moving about on a motorcycle taking stock of the polling trends. “I have the responsibility for wards 18 and 19, and since 2006 I have been overseeing these two wards. Whether he was in BJP or Congress, Babush’s panel has always emerged victorious,” he said.
The BJP old guard is sore after Monserrate denied tickets to some of the earlier councillors and senior BJP karyakartas.
As one lady put it outside the Massano De Amorim polling booth, BJP of today bears a stark difference from its earlier avatar. “After Parrikar died, the party is no longer the same and the karyakartas have broken up,” said the traditional BJP supporter, who now found herself torn between the official BJP candidate and a personal acquaintance.
What may also work against Monserrate is the sense of betrayal among many who had strongly supported him when he contested the 2019 byelection as a Congress candidate. “ There is a lot of silent voting that is taking place, but it has to be seen who benefits,” said a CCP employee.
Most eyes will be on four wards of Mala, three wards of Ribandar and some wards in the city where punters expect the BJP-backed panel to struggle. “The people are angry. Silent voting will benefit us,” said outgoing BJP councillor Menino Da Cruz, who has taken personal responsibility for four wards in Mala.
Cruz said that scores of upset BJP karyakartas worked against the BJP-backed panel in order to send a stern message to BJP for “surrendering” to Monserrate.
In addition to the rebel BJP candidates, independent candidates and the We Ponjekars panel are also in the fray for the 30 wards.