The Congress appears to have averted a possible split in its legislative wing in Goa for the time being as on Monday, 11 July, it claimed the support of seven of the 11 party MLAs in the Bharatiya Janata Party-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 its senior MLAs Michael Lobo and Digambar Kamat.
This comes after five Congress MLAs, namely Lobo, Kamat, Kedar Naik, Rajesh Faldesai, and Delilah Lobo had gone incommunicado on Sunday.
Patkar said, "Disqualification petitions have been filed against both the MLAs as they have voluntarily given up membership of the party."
He added that the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) efforts to split the Congress had failed and alleged that the saffron party wanted to gain "muscle power" as "they have done in Maharashtra" but could not do so without attracting anti-defection law provisions, as per PTI.
"The BJP is resorting to such tactics as it does not want any Opposition in the states where they are ruling," said Patkar.
‘There Is Nothing Wrong’: Michael Lobo
However, the legislators came to the Assembly on Monday and claimed that there was "nothing wrong" in the party and that they were with the Congress.
"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,” Michael Lobo was quoted as saying by PTI.
He further denied any "hobnobbing" with the BJP.
"I think somebody wants to become Leader of Opposition and that's why they are doing it," Lobo said, according to ANI.
The Goa Congress on Monday had moved five of its MLAs to an "undisclosed" location ahead of the Assembly session to avoid a further "split" in the party.
This comes amid reports of at least 10 Congress legislators in Goa being in touch with the ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP).
'Hurt Beyond Words': Cong Leader Digambar Kamat
The All India Congress Committee (AICC) desk incharge Dinesh Gundu Rao had accused Michael Lobo and Digambar Kamat of hatching a conspiracy against the Congress. Lobo was subsequently removed as the Leader of the Opposition (LoP).
Meanwhile, former Goa CM Digambar Kamat said that he was "shocked and stunned" after Rao's remarks.
"I saw a video of the presser of Dinesh Gundu Rao (Congress Goa in-charge) which is being circulated. I am shocked and stunned; it has hurt me beyond words. Dinesh Rao was at my place on Saturday night, I told him my position then," Kamat said while speaking to press.
"If I wanted to go, I’d have gone. No one can stop me. But still, I led the party from the front, I went all out. And suddenly, they changed me from LoP when the results came in. I don’t know why he made such a statement. I’m in Congress, you can see my performance," he added.
Lobo, meanwhile, said that he had told Rao that he was no longer interested in continuing as LoP.
"We are with the Congress party. I had told Dinesh Gundu Rao (Goa AICC incharge) that I'm not interested to continue as the LoP because there are various issues raised against me by the govt, so I said it'll be difficult and embarrassing for others; choose someone else," Lobo was quoted as saying by news ANI.
The Goa Congress had earlier said that "two senior party leaders were trying to split the party."
"A conspiracy was hatched by some of our own leaders with the BJP to see that the Congress party in Goa is weakened and to engineer defections. This conspiracy was led by two of our own leaders Michael Lobo and Digambar Kamat," Rao said.
He added, "We are expelling Michael Lobo from the party with immediate effect and he is no longer the Leader of the Opposition in Goa assembly."
The Congress said in a statement that the new LoP will be announced before the commencement of the Assembly session.
'Goa Speaker Holding Unconstitutional Meetings'
In another post, the party alleged that the Goa Speaker Ramesh Tawadkar was holding "unconstitutional meetings at five star hotels".
However, as per a report by PTI, Speaker Ramesh Tawadkar said on Monday that he had not received any intimation about a 'split' in party. "I have no intimation whatsoever. I was in my office on Sunday preparing for the monsoon session of the Assembly," he said.
Tawadkar added that he was not informed of a change of LoP by the Congress.
Meanwhile, the Congress legislators who had gone incommunicado are said to have met Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, as per reports.
Speaking to ANI, Sawant later stated, "as CM, many people come to meet me. Tomorrow is Assembly, people came to meet me regarding that. I am busy with my assembly work... Why will I comment on issues related to other parties?"
Meanwhile, MLA Aleixo Sequeira has pledged his support to the Congress.
Mukul Wasnik Rushed to Goa
Meanwhile, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday asked senior party leader Mukul Wasnik to rush to Goa to the "oversee latest political developments" in the state, AICC general secretary KC Venugopal tweeted on Sunday night.
Addressing the speculations on Sunday, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh claimed that there was a need to check how many of the legislators in question were facing cases by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Income Tax Department.
"If you know about this, you will come to know that this is not loktantra (democracy), but it is dhantantra (money power) of the BJP," the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister said.
Meanwhile, responding to Karnataka BJP MLA CT Ravi's statement that all Congress MLAs in Goa will join the BJP, Karnataka Congress legislator MB Patil said, "CT Ravi's statement is undemocratic. Buying MLAs for Rs 40 crores. This has spoiled the system of our country, we're ashamed that such things happen in our country."
(With inputs from PTI.)