New Delhi: For the second time in three years, two-thirds of the Congress lawmakers — eight out of 11 — in Goa merged with the BJP on Sep 14, taking the strength of the ruling party to 28 in a House of 40 members. The Opposition Congress stands reduced to three MLAs in the state.
The defections, led by former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and timed with former Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s ongoing ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, came as a jolt to the party’s revival efforts and triggered a political clash. While Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant took a swipe at Rahul Gandhi, saying the “Congress chhodo yatra” (exit the party) had begun from Goa, AICC general secretary Jairam Ramesh termed the defections as “Operation Kichad” in a jibe at the “Operation Lotus” expression used to describe BJP’s expansionist moves.
“The BJP’s ‘Operation Kichad’ in Goa has been fast-tracked because of the visible success of ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’. The BJP is nervous. We remain undeterred. We will overcome these dirty tricks of the BJP,” said Ramesh.
The defections came two months after THCongress appeared to have warded off a crisis in the state. In July, the Congress had averted a split in its legislative party after five of its 11 MLAs went incommunicado and missed a meeting presided over by AICC in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao, who accused Kamat and Michael Lobo of hobnobbing with the BJP.
Eight Congress MLAs who merged with the BJP in the presence of CM Sawant and state BJP president Sadanand Shet Tanavade include Kamat, Michael Lobo, Delilah Lobo, Rajesh Phaldesai, Kedar Naik, Sankalp Amonkar, Aleixo Sequeira and Rudolf Fernandes.