Eight of the 11 Congress MLAs in Goa joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday.

The MLAs who switched sides are Leader of Opposition Michael Lobo, Digambar Kamat, Delilah Lobo, Rajesh Phaldesai, Kedar Naik, Sankalp Amonkar, Aleixo Sequeira and Rudolf Fernandes.

Kamat was the chief minister of Goa from 2007 to 2012. He was also the leader of the Opposition from July 2019 to March 2022.

“We have joined BJP to strengthen the hands of PM [Prime Minister] Modi and CM [Chief Minister] Pramod Sawant,” Lobo said, according to ANI. “Congress chhodo, BJP ko jodo [leave Congress, unite the BJP].”

The three MLAs who remain in the Congress camp are Altone D’Costa, Yuri Alemao and Carlos Ferreira.

With the defections, BJP will have 33 out of 40 seats in Goa Assembly. The Hindutva party was already in power with 20 MLAs and support from two legislators from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and three Independents.

The Aam Aadmi Party has two MLAs, while the Goa Forward Party and Revolutionary Goans Party have one legislator each.

On Wednesday, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said that members of the Congress have joined the BJP keeping in mind the vision of Modi to create a new India and for the development of Goa, The Indian Express reported.

“They have joined the government and supported us,” Sawant added. “I welcome them. This will prove to be a historic decision in the development of Goa.”

Kamat also praised the prime minister saying that his work has earned global recognition for the citizens of India.

“What is happening in the Congress is not right,” Kamat said. “My workers in Margao said the [Congress] party is doing nothing. That is why we decided to take part in the development of Goa.”

The Congress said that the BJP was rattled by the success of its Bharat Jodo Yatra and engineered the defections.

“Those who are not being able to join the difficult journey of Bharat Jodo Yatra are taking resort to the dividers, fearing the threats of the BJP,” Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said. “But understand that the nation is watching.”

In 2019, ten out of 15 Congress MLAs had joined the BJP unconditionally.

Ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections, all 40 candidates from the Congress-Goa Forward Party alliance had taken a “pledge of loyalty” and had vowed to never “never support or participate in any activity that would sell Goa’s identity”.

‘Pure evil’: Goa Forward Party

Congress ally Goa Forward Party said that the MLAs who have defected to the ruling BJP are “pure evil” and “enemies of the people and God”, NDTV reported.

“The eight legislators who have decided, against all political propriety, basic decency and honesty, to pursue their greed for wealth and hunger for power, stand today as the symbols of pure evil,” Goa Forward Party chief and its lone MLA, Vijai Sardesai, said in a statement to the media.

He accused the BJP of using “deceit and manipulation” to stay in power and issued an appeal to the people of Goa to “reject these traitors”.

“Political defections are not just a betrayal of the people’s mandate, but also the denigration and mockery of God,” he said, according to NDTV.