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Goa CM loses a prestige battle and a municipality
Panaji, April 16 - Amid a string of victories in the recently concluded zilla panchayat polls and the first phase of municipal elections across Goa, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant's electoral blitz has run into rough weather in his own backyard.
Friday's 7-0 loss in a no-confidence motion against the incumbent mayor Yashwant Madkar at the Sakhali Municipal Council election, comes as a rude shock for Sawant, whose government is heading into state assembly polls in less than a year. Sawant is being billed as the party's chief ministerial face for the polls and the loss of a municipal council in his own constituency could emerge as a blip in his resume.
A BJP-sponsored candidate had lost the lone bypoll to the municipal council located in Chief Minister Pramod Sawant's Sanquelim assembly constituency held last month, evenly pitting the BJP-sponsored panel with that of opponent Dharmesh Saglani of the Congress.
On Friday, the Saglani-led panel won the no-confidence motion 7-0, after BJP-backed candidates boycotted the contest, but not before weeks of drama and accusations made against the ruling BJP of trying to influence the disqualification vote.
"The Chief Minister is behind all these tactics to ensure that they win the council. They want to send a message that if you stand against us, we will do everything possible to harass you," Saglani told reporters after his panel managed to defeat the motion.
All political attention had been trained on the dusty mining town of Sanquelim and the peripheral Sakhali Municipal Council after the BJP lost the lone bypoll triggering a volley of petitions, counter litigation, criminal complaints and bail applications in the prestige battle, where the reputation of the Chief Minister was at stake.
The election was repeatedly postponed in wake of disqualification petitions filed against councillors representing Saglani's panel, forcing the latter to accuse the Ministry of Municipal Administration, which oversees functioning of the state's municipal councils, of trying to manipulate the polls.
In response the Saglani panel, appealed to the Bombay High Court, which earlier this month, set aside the disqualification notice issued by the Ministry.
Later, a criminal complaint was filed against another councillor Raya Patekar followed by the issue of an arrest warrant. On Friday, the local District and Session's court granted the councillor bail, clearing the way for him to vote in today's disqualification petition vote, which the non-BJP panel won 7-0.
The constant wrangling between the two panels forced state Congress president Girish Chodankar to claim that the BJP was "all set to finish democracy".
While Minister for Municipal Administration Milind Naik, whose ministry has been accused of trying to interfere in the disqualification vote, was not available for comment, a senior BJP leader said that the party had only used means available under law to win the vote.
"We have not done anything illegal. We have only utilised the legal recourse available to us to win the council," the BJP leader said.
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