Congress changes its stand in Goa, says open to post-poll alliance

With just three days to go for the results, the Congress’s election office in Panaji and its party office in Margao were abuzz on Monday with the party assessing the situation with its 37 candidates. A day earlier, AICC Goa desk in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao had said that the party was open to joining forces with “anti-BJP parties”, including AAP and TMC.

The latest stand marks a departure from the party’s earlier position when it accused AAP and TMC of working at the BJP’s instance to damage it.

On Monday, Rao told The Indian Express: “Whichever party is against the BJP, we will talk with them and we are ready to take them on board. I am not talking about any particular party now. Any party that does not want to support the BJP, we are willing to accommodate them.”

He said: “During elections, there were many allegations made by the AAP and the TMC against us and we have made against them. That was during elections but now post the results it depends on those parties what stand they want to take. For us, we are willing to work with parties that do not support the BJP.”

On Sunday, speaking with a news channel, Rao had said about AAP and TMC: “One thing is completely sure…they are anti-BJP in terms of their campaign. So we have to see what they will do.”

Rao had also said that the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which forged a pre-poll alliance with TMC, has been in touch with the Congress. The Congress would be happy to have them on board to form the government, he had said.

In January, TMC MP and Goa state in-charge Mahua Moitra had first tweeted calling opposition parties in Goa to come together to fight the BJP. The Congress and the AAP, were, however, not enthused.

Rao and former Union minister and Congress’ senior election observer for the state, P Chidambaram, arrived in Goa on Sunday. On Monday, the party’s election candidates apprised them of their assessment in their respective constituencies in North Goa in Panaji and about South Goa, later in Margao.

Last week, Goa Congress chief Girish Chodankar and CLP leader Digambar Kamat had visited Delhi to meet AICC general secretary K C Venugopal. Former BJP minister Micheal Lobo, who joined the Congress ahead of the polls, also met Venugopal in Delhi last week.

In 2017, the Congress was left embarrassed when, despite winning the most number of seats (17) in the 40-member assembly, it was pipped to the post. The BJP, despite winning only 13 seats, stitched a coalition government with the MGP, the Goa Forward Party (GFP) and independent MLAs.

“What happened in 2017 will not happen this time. We are together and we are prepared. This time, Congress will form the government and there is no scope for anything else to happen. There will be no delay, as soon as results are out we will stake claim and as per the Constitution, the Governor has to follow the rules. I don’t see any reason for anything to go wrong this time,” Rao said on Monday.

Chodankar said the Congress was taking “precautions”, suspecting that the BJP could play spoilsport and resort to “cheating and manipulation” after election results. “We are prepared on every front. In whatever way they (BJP) can manipulate, we have a counter for that,” he said.

Rao later said in Margao that a decision on putting up all its candidates together will be taken on Tuesday. “Many candidates have said let us all be together so that it will give a good spirit of camaraderie. We’re thinking about it. We will take a decision tomorrow…We have no fear of poaching but we know all the dirty tricks of the BJP.”

He said that after the results are declared, the party’s candidates would convene and a CLP leader would be elected “within one minute without any confusion”.

Between 2017 and 2019, three MLAs left the Congress to join the BJP. In March 2019, the Congress won the Panaji bypoll after the death of former chief minister Manohar Parrikar. But a big blow followed months later, when ten of its 15 MLAs, or two-thirds, defected to the BJP in a “merger” of the two legislature parties in July 2019.

Last month, from the 17 MLAs elected in 2017, the party was down to just one as two former chief ministers, Luizinho Faleiro and Ravi Naik, left to join the TMC and the BJP, respectively, while one MLA contested as an independent and the party’s seniormost legislator and former six-time chief minister Pratap Singh Rane backed out of the election.

The Congress, however, had begun to correct course in December 2021. It got a BJP minister accused in a “sex scandal” to resign, forged a pre-poll alliance with GFP, got former BJP minister Lobo and his supporters over to its side and picked candidates based on block committee recommendations.

Finally, in an unprecedented step, it administered a pledge of loyalty to its candidates in the form of affidavits and oaths in a temple, church and a dargah.



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