Panaji, Mar 12 (IANS): Political circles in Goa are abuzz whether three times Union Minister and five times Member of Parliament from North Goa Shripad Naik will be denied a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. Naik has, however, termed the rumourmongers as 'Duplicate Ticket Agents'.
Speaking to IANS, Naik admitted that there are efforts being made by certain persons to spoil his image and they are spreading such rumours. "They will not succeed in their efforts. I am fit enough to contest and work for people for the next five years," Naik said, adding that he is not aware whether these persons are from the party or the opposition.
Naik's relations with people are such that he is fondly called 'Bhau' (Brother) across the state. He is the tallest leader of the Bhandari Samaj, which comprises 60 per cent population of the state. He was Union Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and now in both the terms of Narendra Modi.
What forced people to discuss and debate the issue is because recently Naik himself vented his anger that he is being sidelined and not invited for government functions, that too even for inauguration of projects funded by the central government.
"I don't know whether this is being done purposely or by mistake. Even if it is by mistake then it can happen only once, it can't repeat again and again. We had funded the renovation of Donapaula Jetty (in North Goa) from the 'Swadesh Darshan' scheme of the tourism ministry. I am MoS for tourism and North Goa MP… and though I was present in Goa during the inauguration of the jetty I was not invited," Naik said.
"When the project is funded by the central government, its representative should be invited. Many such incidents have taken place in the past, but as the government is of my party I didn't speak about it. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant should see that such things don't happen again. This is not good as it spoils the image of the government," he said.
"The chief minister should see if someone is doing it purposely and should take care that it should not happen again," he added.
Speaking about the rumours about his Lok Sabha candidature, Naik said that the ticket is decided by the party's Parliamentary Board three months before the election. "I don't know who is interested and who is involved in this to let me down. The one who is creating this picture should at least give the reason (for denying him a ticket). They should stop this 'agentgiri' and use appropriate platforms to seek tickets if they are interested," he added.
"I have never asked for any posts, whenever the party asked me to work I have done my duty. My service is for the nation and with the blessings of the people I have accomplished my duties. I will continue to work for society," Naik said.
"I don't know whether someone is taking advantage of my calm behaviour. But at least these persons should come forward and should say that they are interested in contesting," he said.
"Someone is hatching a conspiracy of not inviting me to government programs. I don't know who they are. I am not worried about whatever is happening. I have given my best to the public. Earlier I used to win with a mere 10,000 margin, which rose to 1.10 lakh in recent times," he said, adding that the people of North Goa know him personally and love him.
"Those who are trying to spoil my image will not be successful, whatever gimmicks they try. I am fit to contribute to society like earlier. Even after I met with an accident, I started working within 15 days," he said.
"I am 70 years old and hence I can contest this term. I don't know who is dreaming of the ticket. These agents are duplicates. They should stop it even if they are from my party. I am not bothered about the opposition if they are doing it," Naik said, adding that the party's decision of not contesting after 75 years of age doesn't apply to him.
Speaking to IANS, Naik's close friend and chairman of the OBC Commission Manohar Adpaikar said that the former has contributed a lot to the growth of the party in Goa.
"Bhau worked hard to grow the party in its initial stage, when it entered Goa. He was appointed state president of the BJP in 1991 and later in 1994 he became the MLA from Marcaim constituency," Adpaikar, who worked with Naik for the growth of the party, said.
He said that his efforts helped the BJP to get four MLAs, including Naik, in 1994. "But in the 1999 assembly election he lost as he remained busy campaigning across Goa. For him the party was first. He worked tirelessly for the party and made sure that party candidates got elected," Adpaikar added.
He said that after the defeat in the assembly election in 1999, Naik got elected to the Lok Sabha (in 1999) and since then he has never lost an election. "He has got good qualities in him and a very down to earth personality. Secondly, in his entire political career there is no single corruption charge against him," Adpaikar stated.
Bhandari Samaj president Ashok Naik said that if the BJP denies a ticket to Shripad Naik and projects a non-Bhandari leader and gives him/her the ticket from north Goa then it would be very difficult to win the seat. "Everyone knows how Shripad Naik has nourished the party and took it to greater heights in Goa. Denying a ticket to him means losing the seat from North Goa," Ashok Naik said.
"Though we, Bhandari Samaj, are not politically affiliated to any political party, but in the last assembly election we had stated that we will support a party which gives the maximum seats to the Bhandari Samaj. If Bhau is denied a ticket then we will decide about our strategies," he added.
Presently in the Goa assembly there are four MLAs belonging to the Bhandari Samaj.
Another close aide of Shripad Naik, on condition of anonymity, said that two decades ago the central leadership wanted him to be chief minister of Goa because of his camaraderie and contribution. "But somehow because of some politics he never got the opportunity to become chief minister of Goa, although there were political crises which he would have handled well," he said.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the Congress had fielded Ravi Naik, another senior leader of the Bhandari Samaj, against Shripad Naik in North Goa. However, Ravi Naik, who has now joined the BJP, had lost. Shripad Naik had won by a margin of more than one lakh votes.