Days after the party averted an alleged attempt at defection, and ahead of Monday’s Presidential election, five Goa Congress MLAs left for Chennai on Friday evening.
Congress’s Goa desk in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao said the MLAs had gone to Chennai “voluntarily” to avoid “pressure tactics and threats” by BJP.
He tweeted on Saturday evening, “We have not shifted any MLA. The 5 @INCIndia MLAs have gone to Chennai voluntarily to avoid incessant attempts, continuous calls, pressure tactics and threats being made by @DrPramodPSawant & @BJP4India to engineer a split in @INCGoa.”
A day earlier, the party’s state unit president, Amit Patkar, had alleged that BJP continues to pressure Congress MLAs to switch sides.
The BJP has distanced itself from the entire episode.
Congress MLAs Sankalp Amonkar, Yuri Alemao, Altone D’Costa, Rudolfo Fernandes and Carlos Ferreira left for Chennai, soon after Assembly proceedings concluded on Friday.
Sources said the MLAs are expected to return on Sunday evening.
Legislator Michael Lobo, who faces a disqualification petition filed by the Congress along with party MLA Digambar Kamat, is among six MLAs who were not part of the group that went to Chennai. Lobo, who returned to Goa on Saturday, told reporters that he was in Mumbai on a business trip.
Last Sunday, the Congress had removed Lobo from the post of Leader of Congress legislature party, accusing him and Kamat of conspiring with BJP to engineer defection of at least eight of 11 Congress MLAs.
Patkar, who attended the meeting of Congress state presidents and general secretaries in Delhi on Thursday, had said on Friday, “The BJP continues to pressure our MLAs. Their offers keep rising every day. The BJP should just accept (a) healthy opposition. They should respect democracy and the people’s mandate.”
He had said a discussion on the political crisis in Goa was held with K C Venugopal, Congress’s national general secretary in-charge of organisation.
Alleging that BJP is “offering huge sums” to Congress MLAs, Patkar said “(They) are saying we will file cases against you. It is still going on. You (BJP) did (the same) in 2019; you should stop it. Our MLAs will not succumb to pressure. I am very confident about my MLAs…”
Goa Forward Party (GFP) leaders also alleged that attempts are on to make a section of opposition MLAs to defect. GFP general secretary Durgadas Kamat tweeted on Saturday evening, “Even amid heavy rains fishing continues…”. On Friday, GFP’s Vikas Bhagat had tweeted, “OSDs from CMO desperately trying to fish MLAs from Opposition. Has been personally meeting MLAs and offering…”
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had earlier denied any attempt to engineer a defection and said Goa has a stable government, and that the BJP does not need more MLAs. Goa BJP president Sadanand Tanavade had said, “We have no role to play in these events. It’s their (Congress’s) internal matter…”