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Since 1st March, 1999
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Little left outside Mahajan sweep

Panaji, Aug. 5: Arithmetic, Pramod Mahajan style.

If you go by the BJP national general secretary’s figures, his party is set to sweep the 2004 parliamentary elections. He has his figures worked out and at his fingertips.

Mahajan’s calculations have given new hope to his partymen. Those drawing hope from the projections will be two ministers from Goa’s coalition government.

The BJP is in power here with the support of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the United Goans’ Democratic Party. But this did not stop it from persuading two ministers belonging to these parties to formally join the BJP today.

According to the general secretary, Mission 2004 — winning a renewed mandate in the 14th Lok Sabha — is well within the BJP’s reach.

“In 1999, the BJP won 182 seats and was runner-up in 112. So in 294 seats, we were either winner or runner-up,” Mahajan said.

He added: “Our allies won 112 seats in 1999 and were runner up in 62 more. That means there were 174 seats where our allies were either winners or runners-up.”

Mahajan points out that since the last election, the BJP has managed to get the support of other parties, including the Bahujan Samaj Party and a faction of the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

“So, in a little more than 500 seats, the National Democratic Alliance was either the winner or runner-up,” the general secretary said, prompting a newsperson to point out that this amounted to virtually the “full House”.

Undeterred, Mahajan said only in “30 or 40 seats” was the BJP so weak that it “doesn’t matter”. About 20 of these seats are in Kerala, where “it is a communists vs Congress fight”, and some in Bengal.

“Now, you have the BJP in Jammu and in the Andamans also,” the secretary added.

Mahajan today presided over the admission of Goa’s town and country planning minister Atanasio “Babush” Monserrate and transport minister Pandurang Madkaikar to the BJP. Monserrate belongs to the Democratic Party and Madkaikar to the Gomantak Party, both coalition allies of the BJP.

The move, which Mahajan stressed was not a defection, is part of the BJP’s tactic of winning over MLAs, breaking up allies and influencing politics in Goa. The general secretary said the ministers’ move to the BJP had not violated any laws. He added that they had “gained nothing” for joining the party.

“If you know them (the ministers) individually, there cannot be the slightest element of coercion,” Mahajan said.

He added that the parties to which the ministers belonged had “not complained”. “Where is the breach (of coalition politics)' They still continue to support (the BJP-led coalition),” Mahajan said.

But the BJP’s hopes of gaining a majority in the 40-seat Goa Assembly have come a cropper after sports minister Francisco “Micky” Pacheco decided not to join the party. Pacheco and Monserrate had broken away from the Democratic Party in late July to form the United Goans’ Democratic Party – Secular.

Pacheco’s change of mind at the last minute has caused the BJP some embarrassment and comes amid talk of pressure from his party workers, the Nationalist Congress Party and other vested interests. However, the minister has hinted he might join the BJP after all in “month or two”.

With today’s induction, the BJP has 19 MLAs in the House and has the support of one Independent - water resources minister Filipe Neri Rodrigues. But since Rodrigues cannot be regarded as a BJP MLA, the Goa government remains a coalition government.

The BJP has managed to keep the Opposition in the state divided, with its carrot-and-stick policy of sharing spoils with some politicians belonging to the Congress and other parties. It has also used the state machinery to proceed with criminal cases against other politicians, including the BJP’s former allies.

It can draw support from former Congress stalwart and three-times chief minister Wilfred de Souza. Many Congress leaders, including former chief minister Pratapsing Rane, Luizinho Faleiro and Churchill Alemao, have faced accusations of being soft on the Manohar Parrikar-led government.

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