Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari's recent two-day visit to Goa appears to have done more damage than good to the party's image here, ahead of the March 3 assembly election.
When Gadkari flew down to Goa Feb 4, one of his major agendas was to cap the aggravating feud between two party heavyweights - North Goa MP Shripad Naik and state assembly's leader of opposition Manohar Parrikar - which was threatening to pull the rank and file apart.
But not only was Gadkari snubbed by the sulking Naik, a few hours after his departure to New Delhi, but the party president's lukewarm comments on the rampaging illegal mining industry in Goa also left the MP baffled.
The party chief's seeming inability to break the ice between Naik and Parrikar was evident Sunday when during a press meet Gadkari refused to allow the MP to speak to the media about his differences with the party.
"Whatever issue there was has been settled… He is contesting the elections," Gadkari said, virtually blaming media for blowing out of proportion the differences between the two leaders.
Two hours later, a sombre Naik, who had for months been insisting on contesting state assembly elections, announced that he would not contest the March 3 election.
"I do not have the time to carry out my campaign. I will not contest the seat," Naik said, disregarding Gadkari's assurance and stumping both party officials and the media.
Projected by the BJP as a backward class leader in Goa, Naik had over the last several months gone on record as to making a re-entry into state politics after serving three terms as north Goa MP and being appointed minister of state in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
Naik's supporters claimed that Parrikar, who has been the face of the party in Goa, was stalling Naik's re-entry into state politics, because it would create two power centres. Parrikar denied the allegations.
On the mining front, Gadkari's comments calling for a rejig of "eccentric environment laws" in response to a query on how the party planned to handle illegal mining has also baffled the state party unit.
"Here we are claiming that there has been a Rs.25,000 crore illegal mining scam by the Congress government and Gadkariji talks about changing environment laws. We have received no clear direction on how to hit out at the Congress over the huge mining scam now," a party leader said, hinting that BJP's proposed poll campaign against illegal mining might just not take-off.
Instead of taking on the illegal mining industry head on, Gadkari had underlined the need for changing environment laws and establishing a balance between "industry, environment and employment" to further India's growth story.