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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Goa Assembly elections: Congress irons out ‘small issues’, formalises alliance with Goa Forward Party for upcoming polls

Battle lines become clearer, it’s BJP versus Congress-GFP versus TMC-MGP versus AAP

Written by MAYURA JANWALKAR | Panaji |
Updated: December 19, 2021 2:00:24 am
The announcement comes 18 days after GFP president Vijai Sardesai met senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Delhi and extended his support to the Congress in Goa. (Twitter/INCGoa)

After over a fortnight of hesitating to use the word ‘alliance’, the Congress party on Saturday formally announced an alliance with the Goa Forward Party (GFP) for the upcoming Legislative Assembly polls in Goa.

“I am very happy to announce that the Indian National Congress and GFP have entered into an alliance for the forthcoming Goa assembly elections,” AICC Goa desk in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao said Saturday. The announcement comes 18 days after GFP president Vijai Sardesai met senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Delhi and extended his support to the Congress in Goa. Both leaders had then shared a picture holding hands on social media.

Days later, even as Sardesai maintained that an ‘alliance’ had been forged between the two parties, Congress leaders refrained from using the word and said that the GFP had extended its support to the party. On December 9, AICC’s senior election observer for Goa P Chidambaram had said, “This word alliance is used indiscriminately. So far, we have had one party leader Mr Vijai Sardesai, who came to Delhi and said in order to defeat the BJP, my party offers its support to the Congress party. Mr Rahul Gandhi said we accept the support. That is where it stands. All other details will have to be discussed further.”

Rao said on Saturday, “Subsequently, after coming to Goa there were more interactions between us, state leadership, our Pradesh Congress Committee president and other leaders and we have ironed out whatever small issues that were there and we are looking for a new beginning. Whatever has happened in the past has happened in the past. In politics, there is always scope for friendships and alliances and it should be based on mutual trust and confidence in each other. In our discussions with GFP, we have established that. After having all these discussions, I am very happy to say that we have been able to sort out many issues.”

On Saturday, Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) president Girish Chodankar, leader of the Congress Legislative Party Digambar Kamat and senior Congress leader Ramakant Khalap were also in attendance when the announcement was made. Chodankar had not attended the meeting between Gandhi and Sardesai in Delhi on November 30.

“I am here. We are all one party and our desk in-charge has spoken,” Chodankar said after the alliance was announced.

“On the eve of Goa’s 60th Liberation Day, we give you an alliance to re-liberate Goa from these elected autocrats. The ruling party in Goa is in the politics of acquisitions and takeovers which is poisoning democracy. There is a need for all like-minded people to team up and this is the ‘Team Goa’ that I have been talking about,” Sardesai said.

Agreements on sharing of seats between the two parties have to be discussed and will be announced in a few days, both Rao and Sardesai added. Sardesai said that the Congress is the pivot or the ‘big brother’ in the alliance and decisions on seat-sharing will be taken under the national party’s leadership.

With the announcement on Saturday, two political alliances in the poll-bound state have been formalised. One between the Congress and the GFP, Goa’s newest regional party that bagged three seats in its electoral debut in 2017, and the other between the Trinamool Congress, the latest national party to enter Goa’s political landscape, and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), Goa’s oldest regional force that had also bagged three seats in 2017.

The GFP and the MGP had both helped the BJP to form the government under the chief ministership of Manohar Parrikar in 2017 despite the Congress having won the most number of seats in the 40-member assembly. After Parrikar’s death in March 2019, the two parties had supported the Pramod Sawant government after which Sardesai and senior MGP leader Sudin Dhavalikar were made deputy chief ministers. In July 2019, however, the BJP showed them both the door after 12 MLAs – 10 from the Congress and two from the MGP – defected to the BJP, giving it a full majority.

While the regional parties have aligned with the Congress and the TMC, the BJP has so far won over Rohan Khaunte, two-time independent MLA from Porvorim and a former minister in the Parrikar government and has also inducted former chief minister Ravi Naik, who resigned as Congress MLA, and Jayesh Salgaonkar, who resigned as GFP MLA. Meanwhile, BJP MLA Alina Saldanha joined the AAP on Friday.

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