A defection storm hits Congress, a tsunami of resignations cannot be ruled out
Congress on the brink of a major split as 5 MPs set to quit; Party upholds split, sacks Michael Lobo as opposition leader, hits out at leader Digambar Kamat
PANJIM: The political storm hit the big old Congress party hard with five party MPs raising a banner of revolt and the party stripping Michael Lobo as opposition leader with immediate effect on Sunday.
The political developments came on the eve of the monsoon session of the Goa Legislative Assembly from Monday and although AICC head Dinesh Gundu Rao has held marathon meetings of his MPs to ensure their party allegiance, he was able to keep the deputies together.
The split in the Congress party surfaced on Saturday when a faction of leaders led by Lobo held a meeting of MPs while Kamat preferred to stay away.
Speculation had been rife since Sunday morning that a group of Congress MPs might split off to join the BJP and amid the political drama, President Ramesh Tawadkar’s decision to withdraw election notification for the post of vice president scheduled for July 12, confirmed the move.
Sources said the ruling BJP was trying to woo up to eight congressional lawmakers to avoid disqualification. The AICC official, anticipating defection from the already troubled party, had been camping in Goa for a few days trying to keep his flock intact. He had met 10 of the party’s 11 deputies.
Opposition leader Michael Lobo and MPs Digambar Kamat, Rajesh Phaldesai, Kedar Naik and Delilah Lobo reportedly decided to quit late in the evening after two days of speculation.
Digambar Kamat told the Herald early on Sunday morning: “I told Dinesh Gundu Rao that I am a retired injured player. I am hurt and humiliated by the party even though I was loyal all along when everyone left the party. After recovering from my injuries, I will decide how I will play.
Of the 11 Congress deputies, Sankalp Amonkar, Carlos Alvares Ferreira, Rudolf Fernandes, Yuri Alemao and Altone D’Costa attended a press conference addressed by Dinesh Rao and claimed they were with the party. Veteran Congressman Aleixo Sequeira also claimed he was with the party.
Rao accused Lobo of being a traitor and stabbed the Congress party by arranging the defection of Congress deputies. Lobo and Kamat both hatched a plot, he said, adding that the Congress party would take tough action against them.
When all went well after a one-day drama that unfolded following some MPs’ attempt to switch sides to BJP in Margao, they decided to address the media in Panjim in the evening. But upon reaching Panjim, Lobo showed a tendency to switch to the BJP and refused to accompany Rao for the press conference by making a sharp U-turn when he not only refused to enter the Palace of Congress, but also visited the official residence of the Chief Minister in Altinho.
Two other MPs Rajesh Faldessai and Kedar Naik held an impromptu meeting with the chief minister, leaving their party high command stunned.
Lawmakers, sources said, were urged in Sunday’s closed meetings to uphold their “anti-defection pledge” made ahead of the 2022 assembly elections.
After failing to get the numbers, disgruntled MPs stuck with their decision to quit the party and even quit as MPs. But until the evening, they had not submitted their letters of resignation to the President.