A day after eight of the 11 Congress MLAs in the Goa Assembly defected to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Goa Assembly Speaker Ramesh Tawadkar on Thursday formally accepted the merger of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) into the BJP.
Speaking to presspersons in Panaji, Mr. Tawadkar said he had gone through the letter submitted by the eight Congress MLAs and found that they had the required number (two-thirds) for their merger with the BJP.
The Congress rebel MLAs, which included ex-CM Digambar Kamat, Calangute legislator Michael Lobo and his wife Delilah Lobo, Aleixo Sequeira, Rodolfo Fernandes, Sankalp Amonkar, Rajesh Faldessai and Kedar Naik had joined the saffron party in the presence of chief minister Pramod Sawant and BJP Goa President Sadanand Shet Tanavade yesterday.
Speaking to presspersons today after a meeting of the Goa BJP’s core meeting, Mr. Tanavade said that the Congress MLAs had joined his party owing to PM Modi’s development agenda and that the decision to allow the Congress MLAs into the BJP was green-lighted by the saffron party’s central leadership.
“Had the proposal of merger been given to me, then I might have said no. But when the party’s central leadership decides on something, then the decision is binding on all regardless of one’s personal opinions. Our central leadership had decided that the eight MLAs be taken into our party,” said Mr. Tanavade.
With the buzz of a cabinet reshuffle already on the cards, the Goa BJP chief said that there had been no talk on the issue at the meeting.
According to sources, a reshuffle by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant is imminent and two or three BJP Ministers may be dropped to make way for the new turncoats in the Cabinet.
Meanwhile, the Congress’ Goa desk in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao, who reached the coastal State for damage assessment today, alleged that the BJP had offered massive sums to the tune of ₹40-50 crore to lure each MLA into their camp, besides putting the fear of unleashing central agencies on them.
“This is a sad day for the Congress as well as for Goa… the BJP is practising this modus operandi everywhere. Where are such massive amounts of money coming from? They are brazenly misusing the power by breaking elected representatives from other parties,” said Mr. Rao.
Reserving his harshest criticism for Calangute MLA Michael Lobo, who had joined the Congress after exiting the BJP a few months ahead of the February Assembly election, Mr. Rao dubbed Mr. Lobo a ‘rat’.
“We thought he was a lion but he turned out to be a rat. There is no leadership quality in him,” he said.
Mr. Lobo had been named the Leader of Opposition after the Assembly election result in February, but was swiftly removed from the post after the party leadership found him conspiring along with Digambar Kamat to split the Congress in coordination with the ruling BJP.
Goa Pradesh Congress Committee chief Amit Patkar revealed that one of the MLA who had defected had allegedly been approached with ₹30 crore in cash.
“When he was not ready, another ₹10 crore was given to him. When he still did not accede, a further ₹5 crore was offered and then he accepted,” said Mr. Patkar, without naming the MLA.
Stressing that the remaining three MLAs of the Congress would take up people’s issues, Mr. Rao, alluding to the defections, said that the “second round of garbage” had left the Congress.
“In 2019, the first round of garbage had left the party [when ten of 17 Congress MLAs had defected en masse to the BJP]. Now, the second round has gone. As stated earlier, we will continue taking a hard-line against defectors and not permit them back into our party. We will re-organise our party and our remaining MLAs will take up people’s issues,” he said.