Temple, church and other factors in Goa

Updated on Apr 15, 2004 06:32 PM IST

Candidates in Goa are making statements even before filing their nominations and by going to temples, churches.

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PTI | ByIndo-Asian News Service, Panaji

Candidates in Goa are making statements even before filing their nominations - one by going to temples, another by going to a church and a temple, and a third by seeking blessings from residents of an old age home here.

The significance is not lost on anybody. Goa has two parliamentary constituencies where the battle is turning into one between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine.

The ruling BJP is trying hard to retain the two seats it won in 1999.

Its candidate in south Goa, Ramakant Angle, who won it the last time, has visited at least half-a-dozen temples spread across three of Goa's sub-districts before filing his nomination papers.

His Congress opponent in the constituency Churchill Alemao was a little more eclectic and visited a church and a temple.

Goa has a 65 percent Hindu population, about 30 percent Christian and five percent Muslims.

While the BJP and the Congress are keeping a firm eye on their vote banks, the United Goans Democratic Party (UGDP) candidate took the most unusual decision.

Auda Viegas, a prominent women's rights campaigner, took the blessings of senior citizens at a government-run home for the aged at Margao, 30 km from here, before she filed her nomination form.

Eyewitnesses said she interacted with the inmates, listened to their woes and, after telling them of her decision to contest the polls, knelt down before them to seek their blessings.

This state with high migration and a below-replacement birth rate has long seen a tradition of homes for the aged being set up.

With nominations being filed, campaigning gets into high gear for the polling on April 26.

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, whose government has survived since mid-2002 despite not having a majority of its own by being dependent on other smaller parties, has gone on the offensive.

His strategy has been to face the Congress head-on at its own den. Parrikar has been spending a lot of time in Goa's only Catholic-majority area of Salcete, which is seen as a Congress bastion.

The BJP has retained both its past winners -- Union minister of State Shripad Naik in north Goa and Angle in south Goa.

Congress' south Goa candidate Alemao is also a force to contend with. He is a former chief minister, a detainee under the defunct foreign exchange violation act COFEPOSA, owns a football club and is known to be adept at building unexpected alliances.

In north Goa, BJP's Naik is pitted against another former chief minister Wilfred de Souza.

However, the results also depend on how much the smaller parties cut into the bigger parties' vote banks.

The UGDP, for instance, attracts a section of Catholic voters while the Congress' failure to enter into an alliance with the now-eroded Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party has seen the latter also step into the poll fray.

Parties like the Shiv Sena and Communist Party of India (CPI) are not expected to make much of a dent.

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