Christians are the focus of BJP's Goa gameplan | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Christians are the focus of BJP's Goa gameplan

delhi Updated: Jan 23, 2012 00:02 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer
Hindustan Times
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The BJP is going all out to woo Goa's Christians, who account for 25% of voters and have traditionally backed the Congress.

The party has taken this step after losing electoral battles in Goa, particularly in the southern parts of the state.

Leading this campaign is IIT-educated former chief minister Manohar Parrikar, 56, who is leader of the opposition in the 2007-12 Goa assembly, in which the party has only 12 seats.

The state, which has 40 seats, goes to polls on March 3.

For the first time, the BJP has roped in three prominent Christian leaders from South Goa - Carlos Almeida (Mormugao), Joaquim D'Souza (Nuvem), and most notably, former Congressman Matanhy Saldanha, who was Goa's tourism minister - into its fold.

Accompanied by Matanhy Saldanha, who has earned the nickname of being the "BJP's Catholic mascot", Parrikar is campaigning across the traditional Congress strongholds in Goa through his "jan sampark yatra", which was flagged off by senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley.

Parrikar, who is seen as the BJP's CM candidate, is said to enjoy a good rapport with local Church leaders since he was CM between 2000 and 2005.

In his first term in office, Parrikar had come up with a scheme to illuminate all historic churches in Goa.

This time, the BJP is promising to give the community a fair share of representation in government jobs. "We have given tickets to a sufficient number of candidates from minorities and are assuring them that they will be represented well in government jobs in the state," Parrikar said.

Seeking a "chance" for the BJP, Saldanha is telling his community leaders "certain people have created fear in the minds of minorities against the BJP. Remove this fear from your minds by having faith in the party".

According to Goa BJP chief Laxmikant Parsekar, it is wrong to say his party is "wooing" Christians. "The minorities have found the BJP is the only viable alternative to save Goa."