Winnability is the clear focus in BJP’s first list


The Bharatiya Janata Party’s first list of 34 candidates has very few surprises with a clear focus on winnability. The party has ignored the credibility of candidates, criminal background and track records with a singular mind of getting the numbers. In a fluidic political space where credentials seem to be placed on the backburner, the BJP chose to bury the criminal records of Atanasio alias Babush Monserrate and overlook the recent Milind Naik's alleged "sex scandal" which prompted his resignation as a cabinet minister.

The party leadership has taken calculated decisions in shortlisting names but will still have to deal with resentment in a few constituencies where there were more than one ticket aspirants. Panaji tops the chart where Atanasio alias Babush Monserrate was BJP’s obvious choice. Here, accommodating Utpal Parrikar, who is seeking to carry forward the Manohar Parrikar legacy, is going to be an uphill task. Utpal has declined the options given to him and refused to contest in Bicholim. It remains to be seen how Devendra Fadnavis and the BJP think-tank fix the party cracks in Panaji.

In Mandrem, former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar has been denied the ticket once again, with the BJP choosing Congress import Dayanand Sopte. If we may recall, the party faced an upheaval of sorts ahead of the 2017 election where Parsekar threatened a revolt. It took the leadership a humungous effort to strike a truce.

While the BJP has largely followed "one family, one candidate" criteria, it has made one exception to the "unwritten rule", if not two. The Poriem ticket is allocated to Divya Rane, wife of Vishwajit Rane (Valpoi) in what Fadnavis relates to as an "occupational hazard". BJP justifies allocation to the Monserrates by both being sitting MLAs. In the South, however, Quepem nominee Babu Kavlekar's wife Savitri Kavlekar who has been actively campaigning in Sanguem has been denied a ticket. Savitri spontaneously quit the BJP and decided to fight the BJP nominee Subhash Phaldessai as an Independent.

The BJP, while going for winnability, has also shown that it is not obliged to reward all those who defected to the party.  In Canacona, the party has gone with Ramesh Tawadkar and dumped Isidore Fernandes. Besides Isidore, another notable exclusion is Deepak Pauskar in Sanvordem who had moved in with the breakaway MGP faction and was rewarded the plumb PWD portfolio. The party has picked Ganesh Gaonkar. Manohar Ajgaokar lost out on Pernem and is now left to face an uphill task in Margao against Digambar Kamat. The lesson here: Defections may take care of short-term gains, but it’s certainly cannot be considered long-term insurance.

Interestingly, the BJP is contesting all 40 constituencies, but has consciously picked lesser-known faces in a few areas clearly showing a soft corner towards Independents. At a time when the BJP is being slammed for polarising voters and its Hindutva posturing, the party has named nine Catholic candidates in its first list.

The suspense continues as six other seats are yet to be announced. Constituencies of St Cruz, Cumbharjua, Curtorim and Cortalim pose different sorts of challenges, and it is to be seen how BJP negotiates there.

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