Amid a churn within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the 2022 Goa Assembly elections, Calangute MLA and minister in the state cabinet Michael Lobo is looking to quit the party, highly placed sources close to the minister told The Quint.
It is learnt that Lobo is in talks with the Congress, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Goa Forward party regarding his next move.
'Pati, Patni aur Siolim': What's The Trouble All About?
The epicentre of this cold war within Goa BJP is the Siolim Assembly seat. On 12 November, Lobo announced that his wife Delilah Lobo would "certainly” contest the Assembly polls from Siolim.
"I think that this time 100 percent the people will get us elected. Delilah will contest from Siolim with the blessings of the people."Michael Lobo on 12 November
Earlier, the party's state President Sadanand Tanavade had said that ticket distribution is an internal process – and that "no person can decide for himself that he is contesting on a BJP ticket".
Interestingly, BJP's Dayanand Mandrekar, who lost from Siolim in 2017, is also keen on getting the ticket for the seat for himself or his son.
Earlier in September as tensions over tickets grew in the Bardez region in North Goa, the BJP high command rushed in former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to the state. Accompanied by state president Tanavade, Fadnavis met Lobo to diffuse the situation.
But the meeting did not seem to have much impact as right after it, Lobo told local media that if the BJP wants, he will quit the party. "Till now, the party has not said that it does not want me. But if they say so, I will have to look for another party," he said.
Michael Lobo has also expressed support for Congress leader Sudhir Kandolkar, saying the latter would win "irrespective" of the ticket he contests on.
Lobo's Cryptic Messages
The speculation around Michael Lobo quitting the BJP gained traction following several cryptic messages the minister has been sending via social media and the local media in Goa.
In a Facebook post dated 12 November, the minister shared a video of a tiger at the reserve in Andhari. He captioned the post, saying, "Visited a Tiger reserve in Andhari. What a relaxing experience it was before the storm of hectic political activities here in Goa. Watching this undisputed, fearless and magnificent being has doubled up my energy to work for the people."
Again, in a statement given to a local news outlet on 15 November, Lobo hinted that he might head back to the Congress party.
"I joined the BJP under the leadership of Manohar Parrikar. In 2005, only because of Parrikar I was there in the BJP. Now as he is no longer with us, we should decide. Before 2005 I was a karyakarta of the Congress," he said.
Why is Michael Lobo Important?
Political analysts in Goa suggest that for a stable government in the state, a party/coalition needs control over the Salcette taluka in the South and Bardez in the North. Currently, internal surveys by the RSS and the BJP suggest that Michael Lobo has influence over 6-7 out of the 8 seats in Bardez.
Further, if Lobo joins the Congress, the party which already has control over Salcette, will also be eyeing the North Goa parliamentary seat in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Lobo is also seen as someone handpicked in the BJP by former chief minister Manohar Parrikar. In the current government, he is Goa's first minister for Waste Management, Rural Development and Ports, an enviable portfolio which keeps him connected everywhere in Goa — from the influential casino and marine industry lobby to the gram panchayats.
As well placed sources claim that Lobo is open to aligning with all political parties, it is clear that he is likely to go the 'Digambar Kamat way'. Kamat was second in command in the state BJP till 2005 when he switched to the Congress and then went on to become the chief minister in 2007.
While sources in TMC and AAP suggested that talks with Lobo have been stalled, the minister's open support to Congress and Goa Forward party have raised speculation.
(The Quint has reached out to Michael Lobo for a comment. The article will be updated as and when we hear from him.)
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)