PANAJI: With Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar set to join Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet, fissures appeared in the state unit of the BJP on Friday over the issue of his successor, with camps being split over whether his chair should be occupied by candidates with RSS leanings or by the Catholic face of the party.
The main contender for the seat is state Health Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, who like Parrikar comes with a strong RSS background.
The other front-runners are Goa Speaker Rajendra Arlekar, also an RSS man, and Shripad Naik, Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism.
However on Friday, Deputy Chief Minister and BJP’s senior Catholic leader Francis D’Souza (photo centre) cut short his visit to London and rushed to Goa to stake his claim to the Chief Minister’s post.
Parrikar, who held an informal meeting with the party’s 21 legislators on Friday, admitted there are two or three candidates in the fray.
“However it is the prerogative of the legislators and I cannot reveal what they have expressed in confidence. We will officially announce the name tomorrow.
“As for D’Souza, I will be holding a meeting with him later tonight,” said Parrikar, who will resign on Saturday after the BJP Parliamentary Board announces his inclusion in the Union Cabinet.
Goa’s new Chief Minister will be sworn in later in the day.
Parrikar said he would hold an official meeting with MLAs on Saturday, to discuss the transition, where party observers and senior BJP leaders Rajiv Pratap Rudy and B S Yeddyurappa will also be present.
The Deputy Chief Minister’s supporters claimed that for a state that has over 30% Catholic population, it was D’Souza’s efforts that resulted in minorities voting for the BJP in the 2012 assembly elections.
Michael Lobo, one of the six Catholic MLAs from the BJP, said: “For the first time in the history of Goa politics, minorities supported BJP because D’Souza along with Parrikar won them over.
“If he is made the Chief Minister, it will send a strong message across the country that BJP can give a fair chance to minorities, be it Catholics or Muslims.”
Claiming that he had the support of nearly half the party’s MLAs, D’Souza said he was a natural successor to the chair as he holds the senior-most rank in the party after Parrikar.
He told The Indian Express, “I will immediately resign from the Cabinet if I am made to work under anyone who is junior to me. I am the second-in-command and I deserve to be elevated to the CM’s post once Parrikar assumes office in the Union cabinet.”
In the run up to the Lok Sabha polls early this year, D’Souza had made a public statement about minorities being “apprehensive about Modi becoming prime minister” only to hastily retract soon after.
BJP’s state unit president Vinay Tendulkar denied that there was any rift between the RSS backers and Catholic members of BJP. “D’Souza has himself said in the past that he is a Hindu first and then a Catholic,” he said, referring to the Deputy Chief Minister’s recent remarks about India being a Hindu nation first. – From The Indian Express