The Congress appears to have staved off a Shiv Sena-style revolt in Goa for now, but sources say possible defectors are in touch with the state’s ruling BJP, a sign that the plan has not been junked.
At least eight of the 11 Congress MLAs need to switch for the BJP’s plan to succeed. Sources say that plan is on track and former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat is in touch with the BJP to make it happen.
Congress sources claim the BJP had a chartered flight ready to move six of its MLAs out of Goa. A top BJP leader was personally in touch with the MLAs, who were offered Rs 15 crore to Rs 20 crore each to switch, sources said. The plan was reportedly aborted when the number of MLAs fell short.
Digambar Kamat, accused by the Congress of trying to engineer a rebellion, significantly skipped a meeting called by senior party leaders Mukul Wasnik and Dinesh Gundu Rao last evening. The other 10 Congress MLAs attended it.
The revolt may have been stalled for now, but the Congress says it will not drop its guard and has a few MLAs on “defection watch”.
One of them is Michael Lobo, who surfaced yesterday – he was incommunicado on Sunday – to insist he is with the Congress and that outsiders are targeting him.
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant emphatically denied any role in the apparent Congress crisis.
“The BJP has nothing to do with the current crisis in Congress,” Mr Sawant told NDTV.
The Congress yesterday asserted there was “nothing wrong” in the party and it was the BJP that was trying to split its Goa unit.
The Congress alleged that Michael Lobo and Digambar Kamat were “conspiring” with the BJP to cause defections. The party has requested the assembly Speaker to disqualify Mr Kamat and Mr Lobo under the anti-defection law. Mr Lobo has also been removed as leader of opposition.
Mr Kamat was projected as the Congress’s Chief Ministerial candidate in the Goa election earlier this year. But after the Congress lost, he was upset at losing out on the post of Leader of Opposition.
The Congress went into crisis mode on Sunday when five of its MLAs went “missing”. They showed up on Monday for the assembly Session, insisting they had gone to south Goa for a meeting. Sources claimed the five MLAs led by Digambar Kamat had met with the Goa Chief Minister on Sunday.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi rushed senior party leader Mukul Wasnik to Goa to firefight.
Mr Kamat, say sources, is still in touch with the BJP.
Taking a swipe at the BJP, Mr Wasnik said there were some “habitual offenders” who often try to poach MLAs from other parties.
The Congress has compared the Goa plan to the Shiv Sena coup in neighbouring Maharashtra, where Uddhav Thackeray’s coalition government collapsed recently because of a revolt led by Eknath Shinde, who became Chief Minister and formed a government with the BJP.