While the Congress struggles to save the coalition government with JD(S) in Karnataka, it suffered a major jolt in Goa with 10 of its 15 MLAs joined the BJP. The Congress is left with only five MLAs in the state where the party had emerged the single largest outfit in the 2017 Assembly elections. Reacting to the defection of the party MLAs, Goa Congress chief Girish Chodankar said the BJP’s goal was to create “one nation one party” situation in India.
BJP MLA from Mandrem Dayanand Sopte told Afternoon Voice, “Those who cannot control their MLAs and party, will speak like that. It is a failure of the leadership. Congress MLAs and party workers are in opposition for a long time. They have to take care of their constituency and ensure the development of the area and employment of the youths. That is why they quit the Congress and joined the BJP.”
Five leaders left in the Congress are Ravi Naik, Luizinho Faleiro, Pratapsingh Rane, Digambar Kamat, and Alex Reginaldo. As per internal sources of the Congress, the MLAs took this decision on account of the poor leadership within the party.
It is worth mentioning that a group of 10 Congress MLAs led by the Leader of Opposition in the Goa Assembly Chandrakant Kavlekar merged with the ruling BJP on Thursday evening. After this, the BJP’s strength has increased to 27 in the 40-member Goa Assembly. The MLAs who joined are Chandrakant Kavlekar, Atanasio Monserrate, Jennifer Monserrate, Filipe Neri Rodrigues, Nilkanth Halarnkar, Francisco Silveira, Clafasio Dias, Isidore Fernandes, Wilfred D’Sa, and Tony Fernandes. The anti-defection law makes it mandatory that two-thirds of the strength of a party should agree for a ‘merger’. The amendment, which came into force in January 2004, does not recognise a ‘split’ in a legislature party and instead recognises a ‘merger’.
Commenting on Óne Nation One Party’, Goa Forward Party’s MLA from Saligao Jayesh Salgaonkar said, “Congress has lost and the BJP has gained. We are a coalition partner in the NDA. We are committed to the Gathbandhan Dharma (Coalition commitment). We have supported the BJP government and we abide by it. I cannot comment on the move of 10 Congress MLAs to join the BJP.”
After joining the BJP, Kavlekar said, “Everyone wanted a Congress government to come to power. But we are frustrated being in the opposition and development of the constituency was also suffering. We have been in the opposition for long and to continue with no development of the constituency was not acceptable. We have joined the BJP to ensure development in the constituency and provide jobs for our youth.”
On the other hand, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who was present in the Assembly house to welcome the MLAs, said, “They have come for the development of the state and their constituency. They have joined the BJP unconditionally.”
Girish Chodankar alleged that Congress MLAs joined the BJP after falling prey to blackmailing or allurements. He said, “BJP really wants ‘One Nation One Party’. The BJP has exposed its intense insecurity by poaching Congress legislators.”
“Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s unethical act of luring Congress MLAs displayed his fear of facing a united opposition in the upcoming assembly session. The entire episode reflects the utter misuse of power adopted by BJP which is full of arrogance and was finding itself on a sticky wicket after certain MLAs within its camp were unhappy with the government,” Girish Chodankar said.
All MLAs of the Congress in Goa are tight-lipped, no one is speaking anything. They have either switched off their phones or not responding. When contacted, Congress MLA Digambar Kamat from Margoa denied commenting anything about the current political scenario of Goa. Digambar Kamat instead asked to contact Chellakumar who replaced Digvijaya Singh in April 2017 as the person in charge of the party’s affairs in Goa. He is considered to be close to former Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
According to the sources in BJP, a Cabinet reshuffle may follow soon and most allies may be dropped. At present, five of the 12 ministerial berths are held by the allies. Now new entrants will be included in the cabinet. Speaker Rajesh Patnekar said, “They came with the resignations and I accepted. The monsoon session of the Assembly will commence as per schedule on July 15. Only their seating arrangement will change.”
Atanasio Monserrate, the MLA who just two months ago had snatched the Panjim seat from BJP winning on the Congress ticket said, “We just decided this on Wednesday. We are all colleagues and old friends. After two years I came to Assembly and I told them (Congress) these are the promises I made to the people which need to be fulfilled. I am not any negotiator. We are just friends. We had a good cup of tea. We got together and said this is the best way out as far as development is concerned. I am not looking out for any ministry and no demands were placed at all.” On being asked if the timing of Karnataka and Goa was planned, he said, “It’s a coincidence. Nothing is pre-planned.”
By Dipti Joshi