5 MLAs untraceable: Goa Congress hit by mutiny within 3 months of polls

Goa Congress is in a crisis. The day began with the party, which has 11 MLAs in the state Assembly, refuting the buzz of a brewing rebellion, amid reports of some MLAs being in touch with the ruling BJP. Congress has rushed Rajya Sabha MP Mukul Wasnik to troubleshoot the situation in the coastal state.

Former Goa Congress chief Girish Chodankar alleged that party MLAs were offered Rs 40 crore to join the BJP. According to him, calls are being made to Congress legislators by industrialists and the coal mafia.

However, the BJP has dismissed the allegations, with its state president, Sadanand Tanavde, telling India Today that the Congress is “making baseless allegations about MLAs being approached and offered money”.

Here are the top points:

1) On Saturday, two days before the commencement of the two-week Budget session, Congress held a meeting with its MLAs. According to MLA Aleixo Sequeira, seven MLAs were present at the “courtesy meeting”. But Digambar Kamat, the party’s chief ministerial nominee, reportedly skipped the meeting, a move that started the buzz of a rebellion.

2) When India Today reached out to senior leader Michael Lobo, he denied the reports and accused the BJP of creating confusion and spreading rumours about Congress MLAs. I am sitting at home. There is no truth to these talks. I am not going anywhere, he said.

“Yes, he [Digambar Kamat] wasn’t there. We learnt that he was out for a religious function. [Congress’ Goa in-charge] Dinesh Gundu Rao is here as well and we are having a meeting to gather more information,” Lobo told India Today TV.

3) Girish Chodankar alleged that three MLAs from his party were offered Rs 40 crore to join the BJP. He further claimed that industrialists and the coal mafia were also involved in “pressurising” the MLAs to defect.

4) Later in the day, after a meeting with legislators, Dinesh Gundu Rao confirmed the mutiny and said senior leaders Michael Lobo and Digambar Kamat conspired to engineer a defection. The party responded by removing Lobo as the Leader of Opposition in the Goa Assembly. Incidentally, Lobo had quit the BJP to join Congress just ahead of the state elections this February.

5) A total of five MLAs were present at the meeting and sources said that the other six are likely to join the BJP soon. According to Dinesh Gundu Rao, most looking to defect are first-time MLAs.

6) As for Michael Lobo and Digambar Kamat, the party is mulling legal action for allegedly engineering the defection.

7) Reacting to the defection buzz, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, in an evasive response to India Today TV, said, “I am the chief minister of the state and all sorts of people come to meet me for their work. MLAs meet me on a regular basis. Today it was about the Assembly session.”

“My focus is the Assembly session tomorrow [July 11] and hence many MLAs came to meet me so that things work in order. How can I comment on what’s happening in other parties? I have no idea about it,” he added.

8) The Aam Aadmi Party and Trinamool Congress, which suffered a drubbing in the Goa election, took potshots at Congress over the news of the mutiny. AAP’s Atishi said Kejriwal has been proven right about his claim of Congress MLAs joining BJP, while TMC’s Derek O’Brien said TMC will stand with voters who “did not heed warnings from TMC” on defections.

9) Congress has 11 MLAs in the 40-member Assembly whereas the ruling BJP has 20 – it enjoys the support of five others – two from MGP and three Independents.

10) Speculation that some Congress MLAs joining the BJP has been doing the rounds since BJP national general secretary, CT Ravi, said back in May that BJP will have 30 MLAs by the end of the year.

READ | Rs 40 crore to join BJP: Goa Congress leader’s explosive claims amid mutiny buzz

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