The Goa Assembly had a surprise visitor on Tuesday, with Congress president Rahul Gandhi making a brief stopover to meet Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. The meeting lasted less than five minutes, after which Rahul rushed to leave for Kochi, Kerala.
Soon after the meeting, Rahul tweeted, “This morning I visited Goa CM, Manohar Parrikar, to wish him a speedy recovery. It was a personal visit.”
The development came a day after the Congress leader raised the Rafale issue, referring to inaction on an unverified audio tape that claims Parrikar allegedly possesses ‘explosive files’ related to the fighter jet deal.
Rahul arrived in Goa on Saturday on a vacation with his mother, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi. The two were staying at a resort in south Goa.
Goa minister Vijai Sardesai said Rahul’s tweet on the Rafale tapes was only to put “pressure” on the government, and that he was doing his “job” as an Opposition leader. “The tweet was from Goa – he remembered about it (Rafale issue) and he has to keep up the pressure. He is doing his job, we have to do our job. He has to ensure that the issue is not forgotten, whereas we…want the issue to be over.”
Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo, the only BJP legislator seen escorting Rahul Gandhi, said, “He is a very simple person; the kind of leader required in Goa, and in India… His simplicity, his humility has to be really admired – during a private visit to Goa, he comes specially to the Assembly to meet our honourable Chief Minister, who is unwell.”
Lobo has, on more than one occasion in the past, told the media Chief Minister Parrikar should step down in keeping with his ill-health.
Opposition boycotts Goa Budget session
Earlier in the day, the Opposition boycotted Governor Mridula Sinha’s address to the Assembly on the opening day of the three-day Budget Session. Wearing black bands, they staged a walkout, protesting against her, with one Congress calling Sinha “an agent of BJP”.
With the House adjourned, and Parrikar wheeled out, Rahul Gandhi also had a brief meeting with the protesting MLAs, assuring them that he will return to Goa in February for a detailed stock-taking meeting.
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Chandrakant Kavlekar of the Congress, said they were protesting Sinha’s lack of initiative to act on a host of petitions sent by the Opposition, demanding that the BJP-led coalition government be sacked in view of Chief Minister Parrikar’s ill-health. “We welcomed her with respect, but when she started her speech, we boycotted it. She listened to us, but did nothing about it.”
Congress MLA Luizinho Faleiro said, “When we were the single-largest elected party, the Governor should have invited us. A Governor cannot act as an agent of BJP. This government is illegal and immoral.”
While Opposition Congress has pointed at “brewing trouble” between the BJP and its allies and demanded midterm polls, Sardesai, the state Agriculture minister, told the media, “I do not think anyone but the Congress high command wants midterm elections.”