Eight Congress MLAs in Goa, including former chief minister Digambar Kamat, on Wednesday joined the ruling BJP, in a body blow to the opposition party which is now left with just three MLAs in the 40-member state Assembly. The eight MLAs joined the BJP in presence of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and state BJP chief Sadanand Shet Tanavade.
In a similar move in July 2019, 10 Congress MLAs had switched over to the BJP in Goa. The BJP retained power in the coastal state after the state Assembly elections in March this year. It has 20 MLAs in the Assembly, while the Congress’ strength will be depleted from 11 to three.
The eight Congress MLAs – Kamat, Michael Lobo, Delilah Lobo, Rajesh Phaldesai, Kedar Naik, Sankalp Amonkar, Aleixo Sequeira and Rudolf Fernandes – were seen interacting with Sawant in a viral photo hours ahead of formally joining the BJP. Earlier on Wednesday, a resolution was passed in the Congress Legislature Party meeting here to merge with the BJP, Lobo said. The three other Congress MLAs – Yuri Alemao, Altone D’Costa and Carlos Alvares Ferreira – were not present when the resolution was passed, he added.
Sawant told reporters that no decision has been taken yet on a cabinet reshuffle in the backdrop of the BJP strength rising to 28 in the House. The eight Congress MLAs have joined the BJP unconditionally, Sawant said.
Sawant said the BJP now has 28 MLAs and enjoys support of 33 MLAs altogether in the Assembly. Sawant said the “Congress Chhodo Yatra” has begun from Goa, as seen from the influx of that party’s legislators into the BJP.
Meanwhile, sources told CNN-News18 that three sitting BJP ministers will be dropped to make way for Kamat and Lobo in the state government.
There were reports in July that at least six Congress MLAs, including top leaders Digambar Kamat and Michael Lobo, were planning to join the BJP. The Congress then requested that Kamat and Lobo be disqualified under the anti-defection law.
At the time, the Congress managed to retain at least seven of its MLAs, while the others made no final move. Kedar Naik and Delilah Lobo, Lobo’s wife, were among the four who did not attend a key party meeting at the time, in addition to Lobo and Kamat.
Kerala Excise Minister M B Rajesh, commenting on the development, said: “It’s a matter of great concern that this is happening time and again. I am not happy that Congress men are leaving congress and joining BJP. It is for the Congress to seriously think about it and take measures to prevent such exodus from the party to BJP.”
Aam Aadmi Party leader Atishi Marlena also reacted. “I want to ask BJP – they were repeatedly asking for proof. I want to ask the BJP, how did these 8 MLAs join BJP, how much money were they given? I want to ask CBI and ED whether they will raid these 8 MLAs to search for cash – due to which BJP’s ‘Operation Lotus’ was successful. They have already done this in Goa, in MP, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur.”
The Goa Forward Party, a Congress ally, has labelled MLAs who have defected to the ruling BJP as “pure evil” and “enemies of the people and God.”
“The eight legislators who have decided, against all political propriety, basic decency and honesty, to pursue their greed for wealth and hunger for power, stand today as the symbols of pure evil,” Goa Forward Party chief and its lone MLA, Vijai Sardesai told the media.
He accused the BJP of using “deception and manipulation” to maintain power, claiming that MLAs “allowed themselves to be purchased like cattle.” He urged the people to “reject these traitors… and label them as enemies of the people and God.” Political defections are not only a betrayal of the will of the people, but also a “denigration and mockery of God,” he said.