Panaji: In a major political development, eight Congress MLAs defected to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday, throwing their anti-defection pledges taken during run up to the assembly elections to the wind.
Speaking to reporters at the Assembly Complex at Porvorim after joining the saffron party, former Leader of Opposition Michael Lobo said a resolution was passed in the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) to merge the party into the BJP.
“Today Congress legislature party met and decided to merge the party with the Bharatiya Janata Party. A resolution was passed and the copy was submitted to the Assembly Secretary. Speaker Ramesh Tawadkar has been intimated. We have joined the BJP to strengthen prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Pramod Sawant.”
The turncoats include former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, Michael Lobo, his wife Delilah Lobo, Aleixo Sequeira, Sankalp Amonkar, Rodolfo Fernandes, Rajesh Faldessai and Kedar Naik.
Alton D’Costa, Goa Congress Working President Yuri Alemao and Advocate Carlos Ferreira were not a part of the group.
In the 40-member state assembly, strength of Congress has been reduced to 3 MLAs while that of BJP it has gone up to 28.
The ruling pary also enjoys the support of 2 MLAs of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and three independents.
With the Congress MLAs defecting the the BJP, the strength of total opposition has been reduced to 7,
A jubilant Chief Minister told the reporters that the Congress had undertaken Bharat Jodo Yatra but Congress Chhodo Yatra had begun from Goa.
He said the Congress MLAs has joined BJP to take state’s development forward and realise vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make New India.
Dr Sawant said that the all the 8 MLAs had joined the BJP unconditionally.
He said what happened in Goa will happen across the country as Congress leaders will leave the party enmasse.
The Chief Minister expressed confidence of winning both Lok Sabha seats in the next general election.
However, Congress termed the development as destruction of democratic principles.
Congress Goa desk incharge Dinesh Gundu Rao said, ”The destruction of democratic principles is in full display in #Goa. Offering huge monies, ministries and inducements the #BJP is trying to uproot the opposition. Shameful exercise of power and money by an authoritarian establishment.”
An infuriated Rao said,”Isn’t this the height of betrayal and shamelessness by @digambarkamat, @MichaelLobo76 and the others. People of #Goa voted for these MLA’s as they were @INCIndia candidates. They had sworn in front of temples, church & dargah that they will not defect to #BJP. They gave affidavits that they’ll always be with the Congress and took a pledge on the constitution.”
However, former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat said,” In politics, circumstances sometimes compelled one to take a hard decision. Yes, I had taken the oath in front of God not to leave the Congress. Now, I asked God what to do and He told me to decide accordingly. So, I have taken a decision in the interests of the State after looking at the work of PM Modi.”
The split is being seen as a major setback to the Congress which had emerged as a principal opposition party post assembly elections held in February this year while a boost to ruling Bharatiya Janata Party which has started preparation for Lok Sabha elections to be in 2024. Despite winning 17 seats in 2017 assembly elections Congress could not form government and later lost many of its MLAs, major being in 2019 when 10 of its MLAs switched sides to the BJP.
Hitting out at the development, Goa Forward Party President Vijay Sardesai said the Congress rebels had destroyed the faith of the Goan people in democracy.
”The people of Goa are backstabbed and their faith destroyed first by oaths and then this betrayal, and they will note that this act of perfidy comes on the Hindu auspicious period of Pitru Paksha, when these MLAs chose to repay their debts to their ancestors in this devious and false-hearted manner,” he said.