Panaji, July 23 (IANS) Reduced to the status of a political shopping mall for the Goa BJP to pick up MLAs from, the Congress which has been reduced to five MLAs in the 40-member state Legislative Assembly, continues to be a divided House.
While the party, is still in shell-shock following Rahul Gandhi's resignation saga and the tentative status of its state President Girish Chodankar, what its leaders appear to be taking comfort in, is the Congress' "innate" ability to bounce-back and the fact that being reduced to five legislators is still not the worst ignominy it has had to face in the last two decades.
"When Francisco Sardinha broke away the party and formed his government in 1999, the Congress was reduced to four MLAs. Being reduced to five MLAs is not the worst which our party has had to face," Goa Congress spokesperson Trajano D'Mello told IANS on Monday.
After the embarrassing split in 1999, the Congress won 16 seats in the 2002 assembly polls and later formed a government in 2005. In the 2007, elections the party won 16 seats and formed a government again, only to be reduced to 9 seats in the 2012 polls. In 2017, the party bounced back with 17 seats.
The yoyo effect on the Congress' political fortunes in Goa, according to D'Mello, is because the party as an entity has acceptance among the voters, even if its legislators breakaway now and then.
While the party has survived the 'yoyoing' fortunes for the last decade and more, since the 2017 state assembly polls, the Congress' fortunes appear to have steady plummeted.
On July 10, 10 MLAs led by Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar split the Congress legislative unit and merged the breakaway group into the BJP. Kavlekar has since been appointed deputy Chief Minister and two out of the 10 defectors were sworn in as cabinet ministers.
"We split from the Congress because development work in our constituency could not be done as an Opposition MLA. I may be a Leader of Opposition, but I am also an MLA. I have to serve my constituency in the best way I can," Kavlekar told IANS.
In 2017, Congress MLA Vishwajit Rane resigned as an MLA soon after the state general elections and was immediately inducted as Health Minister in the Manohar Parrikar-led cabinet. Last year, two Congress MLAs also quit the party to join the BJP subsequently, which takes the tally of party-hoppers to 13.
Out of the five MLAs who remain in the Congress, four are former Chief Ministers all of whom have defections on their political resume, namely Pratapsingh Rane, Luizinho Faleiro, Digambar Kamat and Ravi Naik and are not exactly known for their camaraderie with each other.
Differences even within the five-member legislator party are obvious.AWhen the monsoon session of the state legislative assembly kicked off on July 15, the Congress had failed to appoint finalise a legislative party leader. After floundering for two days, the All India Congress Committee finally identified Kamat as a leader of the party in the state assembly.
But D'Mello denies reports of a rift between the five MLAs.
"They are all together. Three of our MLAs were not interested in the CLP post. One MLA, Aleixo Reginaldo did not attend the legislative party meeting, which meant that Kamat was the obvious choice," D'Mello said.
When asked about the road ahead for the Congress in Goa, the Congress spokesperson said, that now that the "dirt" is gone, state Congress president Girish Chodankar -- who had submitted his resignation earlier this month and has since withdrawn it -- will empower second rung leaders and earnest foot-soldiers to revive the party. A
"The traitors are gone. BJP had called all these 10 MLAs corrupt. They are gone. Now we have 35 open seats to decide on tickets. We will have a mixture of experience and young talent in the future," D'Mello said.