So Far, Congress May Have Avoided a Political Bullet in Goa

New Delhi: Congress appears to have avoided a potential split in its Goa legislative party so far. The party parked five of its 11 MLAs at a press briefing on Monday, July 11 and claimed to have the support of six MLAs, though it did not name the sixth legislator.

The move put the rebels in a sticky position, as at least eight MLAs must deviate from the party to avoid disqualification under the anti -apostasy law.

The high order of the Congress in New Delhi came into action on Sunday night, July 10 when the party’s interim president Sonia Gandhi rushed to Panjim senior leader Mukul Wasnik to curb the seemingly deteriorating situation. The party seemed to be about to split when the Goa unit of Congress was caught when five of its MLAs – Michael Lobo, Digambar Kamat, Kedar Naik, Rajesh Faldesai and Delialah Lobo – did not meet and lost communication thereafter last year. week.

Since then, there has been widespread speculation that rebels within the ranks of Congress could rise to eight-a necessary number for defectors to circumvent anti-defection law and merge with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Dinesh Gundu Rao, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge of Goa, immediately accused Michael Lobo, the former BJP leader of joining Congress only in January this year before the assembly elections, and himself its former prime minister Digambar Kamat of trying to destroy the party at the behest of the BJP.

“One man – Digambar Kamat – did it to protect his own skin because there were so many cases against him and another man – Michael Lobo – did it for the sake of power and position. The BJP wants to end the opposition,” he said. claimed by Rao.

“BJP agents [are] trying for a two-thirds split in Congress and offering big money to MLAs to cross over, ”Rao said.

Separately, former Goa Congress president Girish Chodankar has accused Congressional MLAs of being offered Rs 40 crore to join the BJP.

Although prime minister Pramod Sawant dismissed the accusations by Congress, the saffron party remained in question as the main actor behind the latest explosion in the grand-old party due to the sudden presence of the Union minister and close aide by Amit Shah Bhupendra Yadav in Goa at present. .

The prime minister, however, said Yadav was in Goa to guide the pending cabinet reshuffle, although political commentators seemed to agree that the Congress in Goa was heading for a collapse. The development came just days after the Uddhav Thackeray -led government in Maharashtra – of which Congress is a partner – collapsed after an Eknath Shinde uprising.

However, as a corrective measure, Congress removed Lobo from the position of leader of its legislative party.

Political commentators believe both Wasnik and Rao are clearly in the mood to make difficult decisions to revive the party in the coastal state, and this could include overhauling the party leadership entirely.

The party, meanwhile, moved a petition to the speaker seeking the disqualification of Lobo and Kamat for “anti-party” activities.

Congress is not new to splits in Goa. In Pramod Sawant’s first term as prime minister, 10 of its lawmakers joined the BJP to reduce Congress as an unrelated player in the assembly. But it seems to have avoided a similar string of turning away at the moment.

A failed attempt?

Meanwhile, both Lobo and Kamat, who disappeared before the party meeting to decide on its strategies at the conference session that began on July 11, withdrew from their previous positions against the Congress leadership, indicating a failed attempt to aggregate enough MLAs to avoid. the anti-defection law. Any less than eight MLAs who deviate from the party could lead to their disqualification or could force them to resign and seek re -election.

All five lawmakers missing attended the first day of the rainy season session of the assembly on July 11 and said the legislative unit of Congress was intact. The alleged engineer of the rebellion, Lobo, went on to say: “There is nothing wrong. I don’t know what the problem is. All the MLAs of Congress are together. We went to South Goa for a meeting on Sunday. They (Congress leaders) want to have another press conference that is not necessary, so we were not able to attend. ”

Similarly, Kamat also said he was in Congress, and told Rao at a meeting on July 9 that he was “hurt by the embarrassment” he faced at the party.

However, disregarding their opinion, Congress suspended both leaders for indulging in “anti-party activities.”

Ranjan Solomon, a Goa-based political analyst and civil liberties activist, said the “tactical retreat” of both the BJP and the rebels suggests that Congress may have avoided a split at the moment. He said on July 10, the BJP seemed comfortable to take advantage from the Congress explosion but now party leaders are more reserved.

“The BJP already has a comfortable number in the assembly. With the support of 25 MLAs in the 40-member assembly, it could even increase its strength if Congressional rebels join its ranks. But it seems Lobo or Kamat may be without sufficient numbers to deliver any strategic advantage to the BJP, ”he said.

“The rebels know that resigning and seeking re -election is not an option. They need to be in sufficient numbers to join the BJP and continue as MLAs for the rest of the term. Because most of the alleged rebels have won from the strongholds of the “Congress, it may be very difficult for them to be re -elected. The last assembly elections are a suitable example. Nine out of 10 defectors from Congress have lost their seats,” he added.

The latest stage in Congress is clearly bad optics for the party. As a show of strength in facing assembly votes earlier this year, Congress swore to all its candidates that they would remain loyal to the party and would not switch sides under any circumstances. That oath proved to be another voting gimmick, despite having an immediate Congressional rectification.