Denied ticket, Manohar Parrikar’s son Utpal resigns from BJP

He will contest as an independent candidate from Panaji, ‘fighting for values’

Utpal Parrikar, son of late Goa Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart Manohar Parrikar, resigned from the BJP on Friday and announced that he would contest as an independent candidate from the Panaji Assembly constituency after the party top brass denied him a ticket from the seat ahead of the upcoming Goa Assembly election.

Addressing reporters in Panaji, Mr. Utpal Parrikar said that he had decided to contest as he wanted to give people an option, and that the time had come to stand up for the values that were steadily eroding in the present BJP.

“All these years my father [Manohar Parrikar] had developed an immense bond with the people of Panaji. I, too, have developed this bond with them. But for some reason, I have not been able to get the candidature for Panaji. Instead, it has been given to someone who has opportunistically entered the BJP in the last two years,” Mr. Utpal Parrikar said, hitting out at incumbent Panaji MLA and ex-Congressman Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate, who has been given the ticket in his stead.

Reacting to the BJP’s choice for the Panaji seat, Mr. Utpal Parrikar remarked: “I feel ashamed to even speak about the current candidate. They can see my profile and the profile of the candidate they have given, who is a history-sheeter [Mr. Monserrate]…the Chief Minister [Pramod Sawant] had himself criticised Mr. Monserrate while campaigning for the Panaji bypoll in 2019.”

The younger Mr. Parrikar said that because of this, he had been left with no choice but to stand for the values that Manohar Parrikar had believed in, and to go ahead and let the people of Panaji decide his political fate.

He further remarked that while BJP would always remain in his soul, people should ask whether the party had left him.

When asked whether he would welcome the support of other parties such as the Shiv Sena and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Mr. Utpal Parrikar said that any support required to fight against a candidate like Mr. Monserrate was always welcome.

Acknowledging that he was taking “a high risk” and that it was “a difficult choice” for him to contest as an independent, he stressed that he was not fighting to win any position or post but for some values that he believed in.

“I cannot negotiate with my party… They had given me two options [to contest from other than the Panaji seat] and I had given many options too. I am not at liberty to disclose these,” he said.

Mr. Monserrate and his wife Jennifer were given tickets in the BJP’s first list of 34 candidates announced on Thursday. Barring a gap of two years, the Panaji seat was held by the late Mr. Parrikar from 1994 till his untimely demise in March 2019.

“Manohar Parrikar represented Panaji for more than two decades. This was possible only because of the love and affection shown by the people of his constituency…they didn’t vote for him because his name was Manohar Parrikar but because he stood for some values. The time has come for me, too, to stand up for those values. I tried hard to convince my party that I, too, enjoyed the support of people,” Mr. Utpal Parrikar said.

He appears to have been particularly piqued that the party leadership preferred Mr. Monserrate — a three-time MLA and former Minister with criminal antecedents — rather than a member of late Manohar Parrikar’s family. A former Congressman, Mr. Monserrate was one of the key players who engineered the defection of 10 Congress MLAs into the BJP in July 2019.

Justifying his decision to contest as an independent candidate, Mr. Utpal Parrikar said that when the BJP leadership had rejected his candidacy during the 2019 Assembly byelection, he had obediently accepted the decision.

Mr. Utpal Parrikar, who had been eager to contest the May 2019 byelection for the Panaji seat, which was necessitated by his father’s demise, was dissuaded by CM Pramod Sawant on grounds that he reportedly did not have a good connect with the voters.

The BJP leadership had instead wanted Utpal Parrikar to 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 country’s Defence Minister.The 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 Mr. Manohar Parrikar’s demise — the first time since 1994 that the BJP had lost the seat.

Even before the candidate list was out, the BJP’s Goa election in-charge, Devendra Fadnavis, commenting on Utpal Parrikar’s candidature, had said that the BJP did not give tickets just because someone was the son of a former CM and that the award of a ticket would depend on whether a candidate had work to show for it.

Reacting to Mr. Fadnavis’ comments, Mr. Utpal Parrikar said: “I agree… I have not asked anything on a platter. Hence, I am fighting it out.”

Both Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal had earlier promised support to Mr. Utpal Parrikar while the Congress has even fielded a ‘weak’ candidate from Panaji. Mr. Raut had called upon all Opposition parties to back Mr. Utpal Parrikar, while remarking that the current BJP leadership was “disrespecting” Manohar Parrikar’s family.

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