Mumbai: The Shiv Sena is all set to queer the pitch for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Goa, which is due to go to polls in early 2017. Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray has launched his party’s Goa campaign with the possibility of an alliance with Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM), the new party floated by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) rebel Subhash Velingkar.

Thackeray last week spent two days in Goa for talks with Velingkar. A Shiv Sena functionary in Goa, who did not wish be named, said party MP Sanjay Raut, has been asked to select candidates for 20 seats that the Shiv Sena wants to contest in Goa. The Goa assembly has 40 seats and the BJP won 21 of them in the 2012 elections.

Addressing the Goa unit of the Shiv Sena, Thackeray described the BJP as a “power-drunk party which becomes dismissive of its allies soon after it comes to power". “BJP has used Shiv Sena when it wanted and dismissed it when it won power. Shiv Sena is their friend when they need it and enemy when they don’t. We will go with Velingkar and fight BJP in Goa," Thackeray said. He announced that alliance with GSM and seat-sharing arrangements would be finalized by mid-November. Velingkar, who was dropped by RSS in August after he announced he would launch a new political party, has concentrated his election campaign on two issues—the medium of instruction in government schools which according to Velingkar must be either Konkani or Marathi but not English; and the conservation of “native Goan culture". Velingkar has accused the BJP of backtracking on both these issues despite its electoral promises to implement them in 2012.

A Goa BJP legislator, who did not wish be named, said the Shiv Sena could put BJP under pressure on the issue of medium of instruction in government schools which the GSM has taken up. “The Goan population is very sensitive about language issues and there is much here that Shiv Sena and Velingkar can use against us if they come together. On its own the Sena has little hold in Goa and may not win a single seat even in 2017. But it could be a spoiler on several seats and that could matter in a tight poll situation," the legislator said. He added that with a bunch of serious stakeholders like the BJP, Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, GSM, and other Goa-based parties which have their influence in key pockets, the election in Goa was promising to become a highly competitive affair.

Paresh Prabhu, editor of Goa’s leading Marathi daily Navprabha, thinks the Shiv Sena-GSM alliance by itself may not pose a serious challenge to the BJP except in some pockets where the GSM has its influence and supporters. “Sena does not have an organizational base in Goa and it is only looking to leverage Velingkar’s appeal and support-base. The alliance could be a spoiler for the BJP on some seats largely due to GSM. A lot depends on what strategy the other major Goa-based party Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) adopts. It has not shown its cards yet and if it teams with GSM and Sena, then the election could get extremely tough for the BJP," Prabhu said.

Currently, the MGP is in alliance with the BJP in Goa and has yet to take a call on continuing this alliance for the 2017 elections. The BJP legislator quoted above said the party wanted to continue its alliance with MGP.

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