The Congress today accused the ruling BJP of trying to ensure that no contest takes place in the forthcoming bypoll for the Panaji Assembly seat, in which BJP stalwart and Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is in the fray.
The opposition party alleged that nobody was willing to challenge Parrikar in Panaji due to the "prevailing atmosphere of fear".
Parrikar is pitted against AICC secretary Girish Chodankar, a confidante of the party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, in the August 23 bypoll, necessitated after the sitting MLA of the BJP resigned to pave way for Parrikar to become a member of the Assembly.
"The way things unfolded after the Monserratte episode...And thereafter advocate Surendra Desai and finally Ashok Naik....It looks like they (BJP) don't want any contest and are using their might and money power to bulldoze everyone who wants to contest," Chodankar told reporters here.
He was referring to the departure of former Congress minister and the party's probable candidate for the bypoll, Atanasio Monserratte from the party last month. Monserratte later joined the Goa Forward Party (GFP), an ally of the ruling BJP.
Desai and Naik, a former Mayor of Panaji, had also refused to contest on the Congress ticket.
"In a healthy democracy people are the masters and you should give the option to people to decide (their representative). I wanted to give that option to people of Panaji and it is to give them the freedom from fear. Panaji is right now under fear of Manohar Parrikar. No one wants to talk about it but there is tremendous fear amongst them," he alleged.
Chodankar, a resident of South Goa, said he was chosen by the Congress to contest the Panaji byelection in North Goa not because there was a "dearth" of candidates, but because the party wanted somebody "who can withstand the pressure".
"We had many eligible people for the contest, but after our three (Monseratte, Naik and Desai) probable candidates were hijacked by the BJP, it looked like Parrikar has been aware of the ground reality that the common people are against him because he had served as their MLA for the last 23 years without performance," he said.
The Panaji constituency is "lacking" in development, Chodankar said.
"Even after the 23 years, Parrikar has not understood Panaji, which is very unfortunate," he said.
Chodankar said the Congress will try to form the government in Goa once "Parrikar is defeated in the bypoll".
"We will win both the by-elections (Panaji and Valpoi). In both places, people have decided to send these people (BJP) home. They have forced the by-elections on people," he said.
The bypoll in Valpoi, also slated for August 23, was necessitated following resignation of the sitting Congress MLA Vishwajeet Rane in March this year. Rane later joined the BJP and became Health Minister in the Cabinet of Parrikar.
"Once we win two more seats in the Assembly, we will be able to form the government," the Congress leader said, adding that his party will never take support of the Goa Forward Party to muster numbers on the floor of the House.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)