Panaji, Feb 6: In an apparent indication of its eagerness to cast off its pro-Hindutva image, the BJP's first list of 22 candidates for Goa includes five Christians including a former state tourism minister who joined the party recently.
The BJP's Central Election Committee had met in Delhi last night to finalise the first list of candidates for the tiny coastal state going to polls on March 3.
Catholics constitute a substantial 27 per cent of state's population of about 14 lakh.
Mathany Saldanha, a former tourism minister, who was a minister in an erstwhile BJP-led government in the state as a nominee of United Goans Democratic Party, will be in the fray from Cortalim constituency.
He will cross swords with Caetan Xavier, a Catholic leader, of the Congress in the Christian-dominated constituency.
Glen Ticlo, an entrepreneur, has been fielded from Aldona where he is pitted against Congress' Dayanand Narvekar, a former state finance minister.
Carlose Almeida, who recently joined BJP, has been nominated from Vasco. Party's sitting legislator from Mapusa, Francis D'Souza, has been retained, while Calangute, a major tourism hub, will have another Catholic candidate Micheal Lobo trying his luck against sitting Congress MLA Agnelo Fernandes.
In the run up to the polls, several Catholic leaders have joined BJP which is going to the hustings under the leadership of former Chief Minister and current leader of opposition in the state assembly Manohar Parrikar.
“There has been no sustained attempt to get Catholics join the party. In fact, so many people joining the party indicates that BJP is getting more popular in the state,” BJP Goa spokesman Vishnu Wagh said.
BJP has a pre-poll alliance with regional outfit
Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party which once ruled the state.
While BJP will contest 31 of state's 40 seats, MGP will field its nominees in 8.
The two parties will support an independent Nirmala Sawant in Cumbharjua constituency.
MGP was a constituent of state's Congress-led government till a few days ago before joining hands with main Opposition BJP.