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Mapusa likely to witness neck and neck contest

ARPITA SRIVASTAVA | NT

Mapusa: Winning the Mapusa bypoll has become a prestige issue, as both, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress party have been putting in their best efforts to induce voters towards their respective parties. The remaining five candidates in the poll fray are also fighting their battle to gain the trust of the people of Mapusa.

Mapusa bypoll was necessitated following the demise of former deputy chief minister and sitting BJP MLA Francis D’Souza, who had ruled the assembly constituency for the last two decades.

Latest assessment of the constituency at the end stage of campaign suggests that Mapusa will witness a straight and close fight between BJP and Congress, as both have a 50-50 chance of winning the by-election. Political observers claim a close-margin win for either of the candidates.

The candidates in the fray are son of the former MLA and councillor Joshua D’Souza, contesting on BJP ticket, and Sudhir Kandolkar, five-time councillor and former BJP loyalist, contesting on Congress ticket. Besides, Goa Suraksha Manch has got renowned architect Nandan Sawant, Nationalist Congress Party has fielded Sanjay Barde, Aam Aadmi Party has opted for social worker Shekhar Naik and Mapusa merchants association president Ashish Shirodkar, who was also a councillor, and Sudesh Hasotikar are contesting as Independents.

With hardly a few days remaining, campaigning is going on in full swing with door-to-door visit by the candidates almost coming to an end. Parties are now focusing on corner meeting and public meets.

The Mapusa seat has been with the BJP for the last twenty years. The party had been comfortably winning the seat with huge margins with late Francis D’Souza as the candidate. In the absence of D’Souza, pressure on BJP is visible though Chief Minister Pramod Sawant is personally monitoring the campaigning activities and also holding regular reviews along with organising secretary of the party Satish Dhond. Besides this, even a watch has been kept on the movement of ruling councillors and BJP mandal office bearers, as there was resentment in the party over the allotment of ticket.

The BJP candidate Joshua D’Souza has been putting in all efforts to reach out to the people with support of ruling councillors and mandal members and is getting a good response, especially from youth and women. The star campaigner for Joshua has been Acting Speaker of state assembly Michael Lobo, who has twice joined him for campaigning, giving a boost and also refuting speculations of his support to the Congress candidate. Besides Lobo, Chief Minister Sawant, Power Minister Nilesh Cabral, Alina Saldanha, Glenn Ticlo, and Kiran Kandolkar have also campaigned for Joshua.

On the other hand, Congress Candidate Kandolkar has been leaving no stone unturned to reach out to the voters. Kandolkar has been gaining momentum especially with the support of his community, as the Bhandari community leaders, even from neighbouring constituency, are openly supporting him.

Besides this, Kandolkar’s personal rapport with the people of Mapusa, for whom he has been available for the last number of years, is also a positive gain, which gives him a good hold on at least three- four wards. Kandolkar is also enjoying support of other leaders like Vijay Bhike, Shraddha Khalap and Vinod Phadke who contested the 2017 assembly election as candidates of Congress, AAP and MGP, respectively. They had together polled around 10,000 votes. Even former councillors have been working for Kandolkar. Besides, prominent Congress leaders like Chandrakant ‘Babu’ Kavlekar, former chief minister Ravi Naik, MLA Nilkanth Halarnkar, Ramakant Khalap have also been campaigning for him.

Other candidates like Goa Suraksha Manch’s Nandan Sawant, AAP’s Shekhar Naik, Independent candidate Ashish Shirodkar, NCP’s Sanjay Barde and Independent Sudesh Hasotikar are putting in their efforts.

Political observers claim that Ashish Shirodkar and Nandan Sawant could play spoilers, as the votes polled by them will have an effect on the final result of the election. The final decision will be taken by 29,212 voters, who will decide the fate of the seven candidates.

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