‘Operation Lotus’ coming back to haunt the BJP in Goa: Chidambaram

P. Chidambaram

Expressing confidence that the people of Goa would vote into office a stable, single-party government led by the Congress in the upcoming Assembly election, senior Congressman P. Chidambaram on Sunday said that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ‘Operation Lotus’ to lure MLAs from the Goa Congress and elsewhere was coming back to haunt them, with many of the saffron party’s leaders deserting its ranks today.

He further said that the party had announced 36 of its 37 candidates for the upcoming 40-seat Goa Assembly election, and that the candidate for the last seat would also be announced soon.

Speaking to reporters in Panaji, Mr. Chidambaram, the Congress’ senior election observer for the Assembly election to be held on February 14, further said that the question of whether the Congress would ally with non-BJP parties after the election did not arise at the moment.

“What you sow, you reap… What the BJP did to us in 2017 and 2019 is coming back to haunt them. In Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Manipur and in other States [including Goa], the BJP sowed the seeds of ‘Operation Lotus’, which is buying people. Now, it’s coming back to haunt them. Their own people are leaving them… I read that practically a third of the Goa Assembly has quit,” said the former Union Minister.

Responding to the bitter comments made against the Congress by Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP and party general secretary Abhishek Banerjee that every vote for the Congress was a vote for the BJP, Mr. Chidambaram drily remarked: “I hold a very humble position in the Congress party. I’m no equal to the general secretary of the Trinamool Congress…I can’t engage with the verbal exchange with the distinguished MP from Bengal. All I can say is that the Congress has the strength, membership deep roots in Goan society and past record of history in service to the Goan people.”

Chastising the Congress for failing to form an alliance to take on the BJP despite a ‘concrete offer’ by the TMC, Mr. Banerjee had said that the former party would be responsible if the BJP returned to power after this Assembly election.

In response, Mr. Chidambaram said that while there had been a suggestion from the TMC to form an alliance in Goa, certain events which had taken place before and after [the TMC ‘offer’] had precluded such a possibility.

“The TMC first poached [ex-Congressman] Mr. Luizinho Faleiro, a sitting MLA. On December 16, we announced the candidature of Mr. Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco [from Curtorim] and the TMC poached Mr. Lourenco four days later on December 20…the suggestion to form an alliance was made on December 24. Even after that, they continued poaching Congress leaders from Vasco and Mormugao. All these facts were before leadership of the Congress and I had no instructions from my party’s leadership to hold these talks. So, the matter was closed there,” said the Congress leader.

Taking jibes at the TMC, Mr. Chidambaram said: “Do you think that Luizinho Faleiro is a strong candidate in Fatorda constituency? What I heard is that hardly anybody knows him [Mr. Faleiro] in Fatorda, they may only have heard his name.”

The TMC has fielded Mr. Faleiro against Goa Forward Party (GFP) leader Vijai Sardesai, who is the Congress’ ally in this election.

Mr. Chidambaram further admitted that while there had been discussions with the Shiv Sena and the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) for a pre-poll alliance in Goa, no meeting ground could be found.

The three parties are in alliance in the ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ coalition in Maharashtra.

“But that does not mean we [the Congress, the Sena and the NCP] have ceased to be friends… we were, we are and we will be friends…but in this particular State [Goa], there was no meeting point,” said Mr. Chidambaram.

Commenting on the Congress announcing its Chief Ministerial candidate for Goa, Mr. Chidambaram said that the leadership would consult all candidates once the nomination process was over and that their view would be taken into account and conveyed to the All-India Congress Committee (AICC) which would then take a call.

He further said that all 36 Congress candidates had pledged to “remain united” and serve the full five-year if elected MLAs of the Congress party.

Mr. Chidambaram strongly objected to the BJP-led Centre’s decision of dropping one of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymns ‘Abide with me’ from this year’s Beating Retreat ceremony, remarking that the Modi government’s move has hurt many “thinking and sensitive” people.

“It is very sad that an old Christian hymn, which is no longer a Christian hymn but a secular hymn, has been dropped from the Republic Day parade. ‘Abide with me’ is an old hymn that dates back to 1847. It was Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn. Ever since we became a republic in 1950, the ceremony called ‘Beating the Retreat’ on the last of the Republic Day celebrations would always end with the march to the tune of that hymn,” he said.

Remarking that it was “sad” that the Central government had decided to abandon the hymn in the 75th year of India’s Independence, Mr. Chidambaram said he hoped that better sense would prevail and that the hymn would be restored in R-Day celebrations once more.

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2022 1:12:44 am | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/goa-assembly/operation-lotus-coming-back-to-haunt-the-bjp-in-goa-chidambaram/article38313916.ece