Senior Congress leader Michael Lobo and former Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat on Monday said they were deeply hurt by the allegations that they had hatched a conspiracy to engineer defections in “total coordination” with the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Hindustan Times reported.
The development came a day after the Goa unit of the Congress dismissed Lobo as the Leader of Opposition in the state Legislative Assembly, The Indian Express reported. The Congress added that Kamat would be investigated for “anti-party activities”.
“There was a conspiracy that was hatched by two of our own leaders who were hobnobbing with the BJP to see that the Congress party is weakened,” Congress leader in charge of Goa, Dinesh Gundu Rao, said at a press conference on Sunday, according to The Indian Express.
The Congress said its MLAs Kedar Naik, Rajesh Faldesai and Delialah Lobo were unreachable by phone, according to PTI.
Rao alleged that a huge sum of money has been offered by the BJP to the Congress MLAs, according to News18. “I’m shocked at the amount offered,” he added. “But our six MLAs stood firm, I’m proud of them.”
Rao also said that ahead of the state elections in Goa, Kamat had sworn in a temple, church and dargah that he will not defect.
“And now they are doing this shamelessly,” he said. “The people of Goa will teach them a befitting lesson.”
In the 40-member Goa legislative, the BJP has 20 MLAs in the Assembly and the Congress 11. The saffron party’s ally, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the Aam Aadmi Party, have two members each. The Goa Forward Party and the Revolutionary Goans Party have a member each. Besides, there are three independents.
On Monday, Lobo and Kamat said they are still with the Congress, reported the Hindustan Times.
“I have seen the video of the press conference of Dinesh Gundu Rao which was circulated,” Kamat said. “I am shocked, stunned and it has hurt me beyond words.”
Kamat was not present at the Congress headquarters in Panaji on Sunday. He said he was living life as a “retired hurt”, referring to the popular expression used in cricket that describes the predicament of an injured batsman, after the Congress did not make him the leader of Opposition.
“My workers were humiliated and in that I am also hurt,” Kamat said. “I had told him [Gundu Rao] that for the time being I am not accepting any responsibility and when I am fit, then we shall see.”
The Congress had also held a meeting with all its 11 MLAs at a hotel in Panaji on Saturday. Lobo, however, skipped it.
Lobo said that he was not present at the Congress headquarters as the party was holding too many meetings and press conferences, reported the Hindustan Times.
“We won on the Congress ticket and we are with the Congress party,” Lobo said. “Yesterday because we were not there for the press conference, does it necessitate allegations? We were there yesterday [afternoon] and the day before. We are strongly with the Congress.”
When asked about the party’s decision to dismiss him as the leader of Opposition, Lobo said it was done at his own request.
“I told Dinesh Gundu Rao that I am not interested in continuing as leader of Opposition because there are various issues raised on me by the ruling side,” Lobo clarified. “It will be very difficult and embarrassing for others. I said senior leader Digambar Kamat is there or you can give it to someone else.”
On Sunday, only five MLAs were seen at the Congress headquarters, according to the Hindustan Times. Lobo and a group of three other Congress legislators were seen entering Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s official residence.
However, when asked about the visit and the developments within the Congress, Sawant declined to comment.
“As CM, many people come to meet me,” he added. “Tomorrow is Assembly, people came to meet me regarding that. I am busy with my assembly work...Why will I comment on issues related to other parties?”
Following Sunday’s development, Congress President Sonia Gandhi has asked senior party leader Mukul Wasnik to rush to Goa to “oversee latest political developments” in the state.