These may not be the best of times for two of Goa’s Opposition parties. After averting a split of its legislature party almost two months ago, two senior Congress MLAs still have the party guessing their next move. The Trinamool Congress (TMC), on the other hand, put in place a new state committee on Wednesday but left out former Chief Minister Luizinho Faleiro, its most prominent face in Goa.
Earlier in the week, the state’s political circles were abuzz about senior Congress legislators Digambar Kamat, who is a former CM, and Michael Lobo quitting the Congress. In July, the Congress had sought their disqualification from the Assembly following the alleged attempt to get eight of the party’s 11 MLAs to switch to the BJP. The latest speculation about Kamat and Lobo’s future gathered steam after the two leaders recently visited Delhi.
Kamat returned from the national Capital on Monday and the following day reiterated to the media that he had “retired hurt” and speculation about his exit had been fuelled by the local media. “Every time I go somewhere, whether it is Delhi or Mumbai or Nagpur, they ask me this. I bear my own expenses and travel. Am I supposed to tell them (media) every time where I go?” said the former CM.
Asked if he plans to remain in the Congress, Kamat said, “I am again saying that right now I am retired hurt. When I get better I will return to active politics. I have also informed my leaders.”
Lobo, who returned to the coastal state on Sunday evening, also scotched rumours of his exit from the Congress and alleged meetings with BJP leaders in Delhi. On Tuesday evening, the grapevine was bustling following a “meeting” between the MLA and CM Pramod Sawant. Later in the day, Sawant said all legislators, including those from the Opposition, routinely meet him to discuss development work related to their constituencies.
In July, the Congress spent a tumultuous few days thwarting the alleged attempt to get its legislators to defect. The party squarely blamed Kamat and Lobo after they failed to turn up at a press conference at the Goa Congress House in Panaji on July 10.
The following day, over 24 hours after he was labelled a “traitor” and “backstabber” by the party, Lobo was back at the Congress House for a meeting with, among others, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Mukul Wasnik and Goa desk in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao, who had accused him and Kamat of conspiring with the BJP.
Lobo, his MLA wife Delilah, and MLAs Kedar Naik and Rajesh Faldessai, all of whom had skipped the press conference, met Wasnik, Rao, and Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Amit Patkar. After coming close to a 2019-like split of its legislature party, the Goa Congress appeared to have kept its flock together.
Though the political storm seemed to have blown over at the time, doubts about the future of the two MLAs have not been put to rest. A petition to disqualify Kamat and Lobo that the Congress had filed before the Speaker during the July crisis is still pending. A week after the near-split, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on July 17 removed Kamat as a permanent invitee to the Congress Working Committee.
With the Assembly and panchayat elections out of the way, attention will now turn to the parliamentary elections that are more than one-and-a-half years away. In the Goan political landscape, observers will keep their eyes on Kamat and Lobo who are likely to play a crucial role in the run-up to the contest for the state’s two parliamentary seats.
Meanwhile, the TMC, which suffered a debacle in the Assembly polls earlier this year, announced a 38-member state committee. The TMC leader in charge of Goa, Kirti Azad, said two joint conveners had been appointed as per the party’s Constitution and added that there was no need for a state unit president.
Asked why Luizinho Faleiro, the party’s Rajya Sabha MP who last October became the first Congress legislator in Goa to resign and join the TMC, had been left out, Azad said, “I can only speak for the people who are on the list. I can’t go beyond my brief.”
The party has seen a series of exits since its Assembly poll debacle, with former state president Kiran Kandolkar also leaving it. Azad said in the coming months the TMC would raise issues relevant to Goans. “If the entire Opposition unites, then it will be very difficult for the BJP to form the government (in 2024) … The movement has already begun,” he added.