Panaji, March 30:
As many as 19 candidates are in the fray for the two Lok Sabha seats in Goa and none of the parties seem to be on a sure footing with the election less than two-week away.
Seven candidates are contesting for the North Goa seat, where sitting Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Shripad Naik will see a tough challenge by Congress leader Ravi Naik. In the battle, both the members of the numerically powerful Bhandari caste appear similarly matched.
While Ravi has been chief minister twice, Shripad is a three-time BJP MP and was a former union minister of state in the National Democratic Alliance government at the centre.
Similarly both are plagued by their respective weaknesses. While the Congressman has been linked to the drug mafia in a legislative committee report on drug mafia-police-politician nexus, the BJP candidate could be hit by cumulative anti-incumbency and is often seen battling allegations of lacklustre performance in parliament.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Dattaram Desai, a medical practitioner is also an activist of the yesteryears. Once a part of Shripad Naik’s core team, Desai has dollops of regard in Goa’s rural areas, but he appears to be lagging behind the two mainstream heavyweights.
Communist party of India (Marxist) leader Suhas Naik and former deputy chief minister Dayanand Narvekar as an Independent candidate are the other significant candidates locked in the contest, after the last date for withdrawal of nomination expired Saturday.
In South Goa constituency, the contest is even more spread out, with 12 contestants in the fray.
With the sitting Congress MP Francisco Sardinha denied a ticket for the seat, which has more often than not returned a Christian candidate, the party has fielded its legislator Aleixo Reginaldo. His biggest challenge comes from Narendra Savoikar of the BJP, who was runner up in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
While its never been easy going for the BJP in South Goa, its chances look better this time, with two Congress rebels throwing their hat in the ring.
Former chief minister Churchill Alemao resigned from the Congress after the party refused to heed his demand of allotting his daughter the seat. He is now contesting as an Independent.
The other rebel is Sardinha’s son Shalom, who resigned from the party, accusing the Congress leadership of being “disrespectful” to his father by denying him a ticket.
Both are expected to nick crucial votes of the Christian community from the Congress kitty, which could prove costly for Reginaldo.
AAP’s Swati Kerkar and tribal leader Govind Gaude are the other key contestants for the seat.
Goa’s two Lok Sabha seats go to polls April 12.