The ruling BJP today won the by-elections to two assembly seats in Goa, with Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar registering a landmark victory in the Panaji by-polls by a margin of 4,803 votes, and health minister Vishwajit Rane winning from Valpoi.
It was crucial for the BJP to bag the two seats as it does not enjoy a majority on its own in the 40-member assembly.
Parrikar, who returned to the state from the Centre after the assembly elections in February, defeated his nearest rival, Congress's Girish Chodankar, by 4,803 votes.
As per the final results announced this morning, Parrikar polled 9,862 votes against 5,059 by Chodankar.
Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) president Anand Shirodkar polled 220 votes, while 301 people pressed None of The Above (NOTA) button in the August 23 election.
Chodankar, a senior leader of the Goa Congress, is a close aide of party vice president Rahul Gandhi. Parrikar, who had been getting elected from Panaji constituency since 1994, had resigned in November 2014 to join the Union Cabinet as Defence Minister.
BJP leader Sidharth Kuncolienkar, who won the subsequent by-poll from Panaji and retained the seat in the 2017 elections, stepped down to make way for Parrikar who returned to the state in March and formed a coalition government.
Parrikar said he was happy with the margin of his victory.
"I am thankful to the people of Panaji who elected me. It's a repeat of the 2012 assembly elections," he said, attributing the result to his performance and connection with the people.
Chodankar said he was grateful to the people of Panaji for their "love and affection". "I might have lost but I have made a place in the hearts of the people of Panaji," he said.
BJP candidate and health minister Vishwajit Rane retained his Valpoi seat by defeating his nearest rival Roy Naik of the Congress by 10,066 votes. Rane had resigned as MLA after leaving the Congress.
With today's results, the BJP's strength in the House rises to 14. The Congress has 16 MLAs, Goa Forward Party (GFP) and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) three each, NCP one, while three are independent. The BJP-led coalition comprises GFP, MGP and the three independents.
(With PTI inputs)