Goa has offered a consolatory pat to the Congress on a day when the country seemed set to bring the Narendra Modi-led BJP back to power with an overwhelming mandate in the Lok Sabha elections. Party candidate Atanasio Monserratte has won the Panaji assembly seat, held by the BJP for nearly 25 years, in a bypoll necessitated by the death of former Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.
Atanasio Monserratte secured 8,748 votes while the BJP's Siddharth Kunkolienkar polled 6,990, news agency PTI quoted an election official as saying. Former Goa Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Subhash Velingkar came third with just 560 votes while the Aam Aadmi Party's Vamiki Naik managed 436.
Manohar Parrikar had represented Panaji in the state assembly almost continuously since 1995. He, however, died of a serious pancreatic ailment earlier this year - leaving the BJP government in the state at a loss.
Atanasio Monserratte took a dig at the party after the results emerged, claiming that the BJP was "helpless" in Manohar Parrikar's absence. Siddharth Kunkolienkar, for his part, apologised to the BJP for failing to retain the seat.
The Panaji bypoll, held along with the final phase of the Lok Sabha elections on May 19, had witnessed over 75% polling.
Although Manohar Parrikar's son Utpal was earlier expected to be the BJP candidate from Panaji, the party eventually zeroed in on Siddharth Kunkolienkar. He accepted the decision gracefully, saying that he would go by whatever the party decides. "As this constituency was represented by my father for over 25 years, it is essential that we retain it. I will do whatever's necessary to ensure this happens," he said.
The BJP and its allies had achieved gains in over 344 Lok Sabha seats by Thursday afternoon, leaving barely 198 for the rest. It, however, seemed to be losing one of the two Lok Sabha seats in Goa to the Congress. While the BJP's Shripad Naik is leading in the North Goa constituency, the Congress' Cosme Francisco Caitano Sardinha seems to hold the upper edge in South Goa.
(With inputs from PTI)