In keeping with its promise of backing ex-Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s son Utpal Parrikar in the upcoming Goa Assembly election, the Shiv Sena on Monday withdrew its candidate from the Panaji seat where the younger Parrikar is contesting as an Independent .
The Sena, which is contesting the 40-seat Assembly election slated for February 14 in alliance with the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), not only pulled out its candidate Shailendra Velingkar on the last day of withdrawal of nominations but also said it would actively support Mr. Parrikar.
In a bid to queer the pitch for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena MP and party’s Goa in-charge Sanjay Raut had, earlier this month, exhorted all non-BJP parties to support Mr. Parrikar’s candidature by not fielding any candidate against him.
The Sena’s chief spokesperson had also promised that his party would withdraw its candidate from the seat held almost continuously by the late Parrikar from 1994 to the time of his untimely demise in 2019.
“We are keeping our word. The Shiv Sena is withdrawing its candidate Shailendra Velingkar from Panaji. Not just that, our workers will fully support Utpal Parrikar. We believe that the battle for Panaji is not just about an election but also about the purification of Goan politics,” said Mr. Raut in a tweet.
The seat in North Goa has become the scene of an eagerly anticipated contest pitting Mr. Parrikar against BJP’s candidate, incumbent MLA Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate.
However, despite the Sena’s professions of support, the party itself has scant presence in Goa and had performed abysmally in the 2017 Assembly election, failing to win a single seat with its candidates losing their deposits.
The stakes for the constituency were raised after the BJP, which claims to be carrying forward Manohar Parrikar’s legacy, calculatedly denied ticket to Mr. Parrikar, deciding to stick with the ‘winnable’ Mr. Monserrate instead.
Mr. Parrikar, who subsequently resigned from the BJP, alleged that the party brass had fielded Mr. Monserrate — a history-sheeter — instead of a member of the Manohar Parrikar family.
He also said he was contesting not to seek any post but to stand up for the values that were steadily eroding in the BJP set-up.
Mr. Parrikar, who was eager to contest the May 2019 byelection for the seat which was necessitated by his father’s demise, was dissuaded by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on the ground that he reportedly did not have good connect with the voters.
According to sources, the BJP leadership had wanted him to instead support Sidharth Kuncalienkar, who had already been the Panaji MLA between February 2015 and May 2017 in the interim period that Manohar Parrikar was serving as the Defence Minister. (Mr. Kuncalienkar had vacated the seat in May 2017 for Parrikar to contest after the latter had resigned as Defence Minister.)
The 2019 Panaji byelection, however, turned into a debacle for the BJP with Mr. Monserrate defeating Mr. Kuncalienkar despite the saffron party hoping to ride a “sympathy wave” following Parrikar’s demise — the first time since 1994 that the BJP had lost the seat.
Besides the Shiv Sena, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had earlier promised to support to Mr. Parrikar while the Congress has fielded an allegedly ‘weak’ candidate to boost his chances against Mr. Monserrate.