The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which sees a “favourable political climate” prevailing in Goa in the run-up to the March 3 assembly polls, is working hard to placate the party’s sulking North Goa MP Shripad Naik.
Naik, projected by the party as the undisputed leader of backward classes for long, has been denied permission to enter state politics despite his keenness. The three-time MP has threatened to keep away from campaigning.
He has also refused to participate in a pre-poll mass contact programme led by opposition leader Manohar Parrikar. “The party has to explain why I was left out. If my presence is not needed here, why should I campaign? Let the candidates’ list be out, I will decide after that,” said Naik.
Senior BJP leaders are in touch with Naik, trying to paper over the cracks. The party’s central leadership, however, appears unwilling to disturb Parrikar, a Gaud Saraswat Brahmin (a powerful upper caste).
According to BJP insiders, the party fears Naik’s entry into the state poll will create two power blocs in Goa.
Moreover, the party wants to avoid a Lok Sabha by-election, which would be necessitated if Naik, who enjoys the backing of Maharashtra strongman Gopinath Munde, quits his seat for state-level politics.
The Naik and Parrikar sideshow is giving the BJP the jitters, especially with the ruling Congress — pushed to the wall by several scams including illegal mining — moving in to woo the backward classes, citing the “treatment” meted out to the MP.
Parrikar, however, brushed aside talk of rift in the party. “He (Naik) is a senior leader who contributed much in building the party in the state. He will not do anything which weakens the party.”