Goa Congress says seven MLAs with party; 'dissidents' claim all is well

These so far 'out of reach' MLAs attended the monsoon session of the state Assembly which began on Monday and claimed there was 'nothing wrong' in the opposition party.

Published: 11th July 2022 09:16 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th July 2022 09:16 PM   |  A+A-

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant speaks during the first day of the Monsoon Session of the Goa Assembly. (Photo | PTI)


PANAJI: The Congress appears to have averted a possible split in its legislative wing in Goa for the time being as on Monday it claimed the support of seven of the 11 party MLAs in the BJP-ruled state which saw Assembly polls just four months ago.

A day after five out of the 11 MLAs went incommunicado, Goa Congress chief Amit Patkar said the number of MLAs with the party has risen to seven -- two more than the Sunday's count -- and the party has also sought disqualification of a couple of legislators.

These so far 'out of reach' MLAs attended the monsoon session of the state Assembly which began on Monday and claimed there was "nothing wrong" in the opposition party.

Patkar said senior leader Mukul Wasnik has reached Goa and a new Leader of the Opposition will be announced to succeed Michael Lobo, accused by the party of "conspiring and hobnobbing" with the BJP.

Patkar said Wasnik will hold a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party.

"MLA Aleixo Sequeira and another Congress MLA have come to us. We had five MLAs with us on Sunday evening, now we have seven MLAs with us," he told reporters.

Patkar, however, refused to identify the seventh legislator.

A day earlier, the Congress had said five of its 11 MLAs in Goa had gone "incommunicado".

The Congress had accused two of these legislators - Michael Lobo and former chief minister Digambar Kamat - of "conspiring and hobnobbing" with the ruling BJP to engineer a split in the grand old party's legislative wing.

The party removed Michael Lobo from the post of Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, which has 40 members.

The five MLAs, who had gone incommunicado, attended the monsoon session of the state Assembly which began Monday morning.

They claimed there was "nothing wrong" in the opposition party.

These MLAs are - Michael Lobo, Kamat, Kedar Naik, Rajesh Faldesai and Delialah Lobo.

Congress' Goa in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao had also said that five other legislators, excluding those who went incommunicado, are with the party.

They are Altone D'Costa, Sankalp Amonkar, Yuri Alemao, Carlos Alvares Ferreira, and Rudolf Fernandes.

These five MLAs were present at a press conference addressed by Rao on Sunday.

He had said the sixth MLA, Aleixo Sequeira, is in touch with Congress leaders and is "very much" with the party.

Patkar said the Congress will announce a new Leader of Opposition (LoP) probably in the night on Monday.

He said Congress leaders met Assembly Speaker Ramesh Tawadkar to inform him about the removal of Michael Lobo as the LoP.

Michael Lobo claimed there was nothing wrong in the party.

"There is nothing wrong. I don't know what is the problem. All Congress MLAs were together. We went to South Goa for a meeting on Sunday. They (Congress leaders) again wanted to have another press conference which was not required, so we did not attend it," said Michael Lobo, whose wife Delialah is also a Congress MLA.

He said they won the state election on the Congress's ticket and they stand with the party.

On replacing him as the Leader of Opposition, Michael said he had told the party that he was not interested to continue in the cabinet rank post.

Former chief minister Kamat and his Congress colleague Rajesh Faldesai also said they were with the party.

Talking to reporters outside the Assembly complex, Kamat said he was very much with the Congress.

"I had met Dinesh Gundu Rao on Saturday. I told him that I am hurt because of the humiliation that I faced in the party," the former CM said, adding rumours of him joining the BJP were floating since 2017.

"I stayed with the Congress. I led the party from front during the Assembly election (earlier this year), but after the polls, I was not given the post of leader of opposition," Kamat said.

MLA Faldesai said he was with the party and had informed Patkar about his absence (from the party office on Sunday) as he was at home due to personal reasons.

Before the commencement of the Assembly session, a senior Congress leader said they had moved five other MLAs, who were with the party, to an undisclosed location, to avoid a 'split' in the outfit and that they will attend the session.

Meanwhile, the Congress filed petitions with Speaker Tawadkar seeking disqualification of its MLAs Michael Lobo and Kamat.

"Disqualification petitions have been filed against both the MLAs as they have voluntarily given up membership of the party. There is a Supreme Court judgment which states that any anti-party activity amounts to giving up of the membership of the party." Patkar claimed.

He said the BJP's move to split the Congress Legislative Party had failed as it could not muster the required numbers of legislators needed to do so without attracting provisions of the anti-defection law.

"The BJP wanted to repeat what they have done in Maharashtra through money and muscle power. We ensured on Sunday that the defection in our party stops," Patkar said.

A rebellion in the Shiv Sena led to the collapse of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in adjoining Maharashtra last month.

The BJP is resorting to such tactics as it does not want any opposition in the states where they are ruling, the GPCC president alleged.

However, the BJP rubbished the Congress claims and asserted it had nothing to do with whatever is happening in the opposition party.

Talking to reporters at the party office in Panaji, Goa BJP spokesman Yatish Naik said political developments that started in the Congress on Sunday were due to internal differences in the opposition party and the saffron outfit should not be accused of trying to engineer a split.

"The BJP has nothing to do with whatever is happening in the Congress party," he asserted.

Asked whether "dissident" Congress MLAs had met Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, Naik said "Due to the ongoing Assembly session, many MLAs may have been meeting the CM. That does not mean the BJP or the state government is involved in something."

The AAP on Monday sought to fish in troubled waters as it appealed to the masses to consider it as an alternative in the country, alleging that the grand old party has become a "B-team" of the BJP.

With the Congress Goa in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao's claim on Sunday that two of his party MLAs were engaged in engineering a split in the party at the behest of the BJP in the state, it has now been proved that every single vote cast in its favour eventually becomes useful for the BJP, the AAP alleged.

"This has once again proved the slogan -- the Congress' hand with the BJP -- true," Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said in a video message.

He was reacting to the political turmoil within the Goa unit of Congress.

He said the Congress MLAs had switched to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Goa after assembly polls in 2017 as well.

"This is not happening for the first time. Wherever Congress wins (in election), the people's votes and support in its favour eventually become useful in strengthening the BJP. As many as 62 Congress leaders have switched to the BJP in Gujarat," he said.

"The Congress has actually become a B-team of the BJP across the country," he charged.

The Congress' Goa desk in-charge Rao had on Sunday claimed that his party MLAs Michael Lobo and Digambar Kamat were "hatching a conspiracy by hobnobbing with the BJP to engineer a split in the Congress.

" The party subsequently removed Lobo from the post of the Leader of Opposition in the 40-member state Assembly after five of its MLAs, including Lobo and Kamat, went incommunicado, ahead of the start of the assembly session.

The party also moved its five other MLAs to an undisclosed location.

"The Sixth MLA, Aleixo Sequeira, is in touch with the Congress leaders and is very much with the party," Rao had said at a press conference on Sunday.

In a dramatic turn of events, however, all these five Congress MLAs including Lobo and Kamat turned up to attend the assembly proceedings on the first day of the monsoon session on Monday, and claimed there was "nothing wrong" in the opposition party.

Lobo told reporters that all the five MLAs, including him, won the state assembly election on the Congress' ticket and asserted that they stand with the party.

"See the reality of the Congress. Its leaders are breaking their own party, MLAs defecting to BJP. Don't waste your vote on such a party," AAP MP Singh said in his message to the masses.

"The Congress' hand is with the BJP. Think about Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party which is there in front of you as a clean alternative," he added.

AAP's chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj called Congress "a sub-contractor" of the BJP and cautioned people against voting for the party.

"If you want to defeat the BJP, don't waste your vote on Congress. Congress is not an alternative.

The BJP will bring Congress MLAs on its side," he told a press conference.

AAP MLA Atishi said the Congress is no more an alternative to the BJP and alleged that the BJP has been bringing the leaders of the Congress and other parties to its fold by hook or crook since it came to power at the Centre winning the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

"Those who want to vote against the BJP must know that every vote cast in favour of the Congress eventually goes into the BJP's kitty because their MLAs will defect to the BJP after elections," she said, adding, "vote for any party, their MLAs are ready to be sold and the BJP is ready to buy them."

Atishi alleged that the BJP has succeeded in breaking "all the parties", except the AAP, using the money power or the central agencies like the CBI and ED against them.

"It is AAP which has not fallen to any greed so far. The AAP is the only alternative to the BJP," she added.

Buoyed by its grand victory in Punjab assembly polls earlier this year, the AAP has been working on its national expansion plan and making efforts to gain its toe hold in other states.

The party, which came to power decimating the Congress in Delhi and Punjab both, has been using every opportunity to position itself as an alternative to the grand old party and the sole challenger to the BJP.

The Kejriwal-led party, which is gearing up to contest all seats in upcoming assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh later this year, has also set in motion its preparations for elections in other states in coming years, hoping to play a key national role in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.


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