Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) chief Girish Chodankar has tendered his resignation from the post, accepting “full responsibility” for the crushing defeat of the Congress in the recently concluded Goa Assembly election.
All-India Congress Committee (AICC) desk in-charge for Goa Dinesh Gundu Rao confirmed the development. Party sources said the high command is likely to accept Mr. Chodankar’s resignation.
The names of Aleixo Sequeira and Sankalp Amonkar, the newly elected MLAs of Nuvem and Mormugao constituencies, are doing the rounds as front-runners for the post of GPCC chief.
“I take full responsibility for the results,” Mr. Chodankar had said soon after the results, even going so far as to say the party could remove him from the post of Goa Congress chief.
This is not the first time that Mr. Chodankar has tendered his resignation: he had resigned after the Congress’s unsatisfactory performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, in which he was trounced by the BJP’s Shripad Naik in the North Goa parliamentary seat, and then again in December 2020 after his party’s dismal performance in the local body polls.
A number of leaders within the Goa Congress had long been miffed with Mr. Chodankar’s leadership even before the Assembly poll, with MP Fransisco Sardinha and ex-Congress MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco calling for his removal as GPCC chief.
Speculation was rife in August last year that the Congress top brass would replace him ahead of the crucial 2022 Assembly election.
However, Mr. Chodankar was retained, while Mr. Sequeira was appointed as party working president in a bid to mollify the disgruntled factions within the party.
While the BJP secured a decisive 20 of the 40 Assembly seats, the Congress, its main challenger in this election, could manage just 11 of the 37 seats it contested on. Its ally, the Vijai Sardesai-led Goa Forward Party (GFP) won just one of the three seats it contested on, with Mr. Sardesai being the sole GFP MLA elected from Fatorda.
The party’s underwhelming performance under Mr. Chodankar’s leadership was all the more striking as, prior to the polls, the defection-scarred Congress had made an effort to clean up its house by taking a hard line on defectors and awarding tickets to fresh faces.
It had even made its candidates swear anti-defection oaths in temples, and pledge the same on legal affidavits while sequestering them in a plush resort just ahead of the counting on March 10.
In 2017, the Congress had emerged as the single-largest party, winning 17 seats but failing to seize the initiative to form a government. This time, it failed to capitalise on the alleged ‘anti-incumbency’ buffeting the BJP, which was seeking to form a government for the third consecutive term.
Severely undercut by the split in anti-BJP votes, the Congress, which suffered from the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party, the Trinamool Congress and especially the Revolutionary Goans Party, saw its vote share plummet to 23.46% from its 2017 share of 28.5%.
Despite the disappointing performance, Congress candidates offered credible opposition in some segments – with the party’s Sanquelim candidate Dharmesh Saglani giving a tough fight to CM Pramod Sawant (who won by barely 666 votes) and Digambar Kamat and Altone D’ Costa defeating BJP Deputy Chief Ministers Mahohar Azgaonkar and Chandrakant Kavlekar from Margao and Quepem respectively.
Mr. Kamat, who won his seventh term from Margao by a massive margin of more than 8,000 votes, is also touted as a possible candidate for the post of GPCC chief.