Brushing aside continued pressure from the ruling Congress Party, the regional Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party has withdrawn support to the Congress-led coalition government and announced its decision to forge an electoral alliance with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The move of the two-member MGP, which was part of the Digambar Kamat-led coalition government and had one Minister in the Cabinet — considering its potential to polarise the Hindu vote, especially in the Hindu-dominated north Goa and areas of south Goa — is expected to pose a strong challenge to the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine.

Minority votes

With the BJP simultaneously going all out to woo minority voters by giving nearly eight tickets to Catholic and Muslim candidates, the election in Goa is shaping up for a serious battle.

MGP president Deepak Dhavalikar, MLA, said the decision to withdraw from the government was in line with a resolution passed by the party's central committee last week.

The BJP has fought alone here for the last 18 years, but in 1994 the party won four seats in all alliance with the MGP, which won 12 seats. The BJP's national president Nitin Gadkari announced the alliance on Sunday calling it a “natural alliance;” but, instead of euphoria, the mood among the BJP leaders was one of relief over finally having prevailed upon the MGP's “high command” — legislators and brothers Ramkrishna Dhavlikar and Deepak Dhavlikar — to agree on the alliance.

The BJP will contest 31 seats and the MGP eight, while in Cumbharjua constituency of north Goa the alliance will back former Minister Nirmala Sawant as an Independent.

“Chief Minister Kamat is a very nice man but the administration had virtually collapsed because of many of the Ministers who had become extremely corrupt and unmanageable. They have ruined the administration,” Ramkrishna Dhavlikar said. For the MGP, the issue of its survival as a recognised party is also at stake with the party needing to win at least three seats or get 80,000 votes, a tall order for the party in its present state.

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