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Goa polls: Velingkar looks for allies to oust the BJP

The forum has set a deadline of October 2 to strengthen the alliance, looking to enlist the support of the Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Shiv Sena.

mumbai Updated: Sep 14, 2016 01:58 IST
Manasi Phadke
Ousted Goa Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh unit chief Subhash Velingkar
Ousted Goa Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh unit chief Subhash Velingkar(PTI)

The Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM), a forum supported by ousted Goa Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh unit chief Subhash Velingkar, is trying to bring about a ‘mahagathbandhan’ of like-minded political outfits to corner the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming Goa Assembly polls.

The forum has set a deadline of October 2 to strengthen the alliance, looking to enlist the support of the Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Shiv Sena, two of BJP’s allies that are known to be at loggerheads with the party.

Besides, the BBSM is also looking at including the newly constituted Goa Praja Party, launched by two of Goa’s former ministers with an aim of becoming the flag-bearer to safeguarding Goa’s traditional identity and culture.

Speaking to HT, Velingkar said, “We have decided to give a viable alternative to the people of Goa by October 2. The political cell of the BBSM has decided to give time to the MGP until September 30 to terminate its alliance with the BJP and take a decision on joining us.”

Velingkar said if his forum gets the MGP’s support, then the party will by not contest seats in the Goa Legislative Assembly polls scheduled for early 2017 by itself, but back the MGP and other parties in the grand alliance. “If the MGP does not break away from the BJP, we are preparing to fight the poll. We are having a meeting on September 16 to discuss how to go about floating a political outfit,” he added.

Velingkar and his followers fell out with the BJP over his consistent demands of promoting Goa’s regional languages — Marathi and Konkan — as the primary medium of instruction in schools, and withdrawal of government grants to English medium schools. The local language crusader was ultimately shown the door, prompting him to float an independent “Goa RSS Prant” with his followers. Significantly, both the MGP and the Shiv Sena have been strongly demanding prominence to Marathi language.

The MGP, Goa’s oldest regional party that ruled the state for 16 consecutive years until 1979, currently has three legislators in the 40-member Goa Legislative Assembly, lending support to the BJP, which has 21 legislators. The MGP, which was earlier in alliance with the Congress, has off late publicly expressed its desire to discontinue with the BJP in the 2017 polls, alleging the latter of failure to keep up pre-poll promises.

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena, which is in alliance with the BJP in Maharashtra, has had sour relations with its coalition partner. Playing opposition from the treasury benches, the Shiv Sena has exchanged blows with the BJP on several local issues, from the colour of streetlights on the iconic Marine Drive, to the alignment of a Metro corridor, to even joining forces with the opposition on its ally’s preference for a separate Vidarbha state. The party has been eyeing Goa for long to chip at the BJP’s power in the state. The party’s electoral might in Goa is, however, currently negligible with it having lost all three seats it contested in the 2012 Assembly elections.

“Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut has discussed the possibility of an alliance over the past few days. We are keen on bringing about a union of compatible parties and work to promote Goa’s local languages,” Velingkar said.

Raut said the Shiv Sena is in favour of an alliance. “We have had a few rounds of discussion. Velingkar has expressed to the media that he is in favour of an alliance. We can work out other details later,” the Rajya Sabha MP said.