“We knew this could happen,” he said at a press conference in Delhi, “The BJP used all kinds of tactics — central probe agencies, threats by goons, lure of money — to do this, because it is rattled by the Bharat Jodo Yatra.” He also released a video in Hindi on Twitter.
आज भाजपा ने फिर साबित कर दिया कि वह सिर्फ़ तोड़ना जानती है। हमारी #भारत_जोड़ो_यात्रा से बौखलाई भाजपा ने गोवा में ऑपरेशन कीचड़ को अंजाम दिया। भारत देख रहा है।
वो तोड़ेंगे; हम जोड़ेंगे pic.twitter.com/S5SfF9JqUK
— Pawan Khera 🇮🇳 (@Pawankhera) September 14, 2022
The party, reduced to three MLAs in a House of 40, said the BJP is afraid of the “visible success” of Rahul Gandhi’s ongoing Yatra (Unite India March), and that’s why it had “fast-tracked” its Goa operation.
Operation Kichad of BJP in Goa has been fast tracked because of the visible success of the #BharatJodoYatra. BJP is nervous. A daily dose of diversion & disinformation is handed out to undermine the Yatra. We remain undeterred. We will overcome these dirty tricks of the BJP.
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) September 14, 2022
Quips and wordplay flew from all sides, including the defecting MLAs who said they were unhappy with the Congress leadership.
“It is Congress chhoro (quit Congress), BJP ko jodo,” said Michael Lobo, who along with former chief minister Digambar Kamat led the group.
Welcoming them, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant added his spin: “Now a ‘Congress Chhoro Yatra’ has begun from Goa.” He said the MLAs wanted to work under PM Narendra Modi’s leadership, for development of Goa. That’s what the defectors said too.
. @INCGoa legislature party, today merged with the BJP with 8 out of 11 MLAs formally joining the party, In the presence of State President Shri @ShetSadanand, CM @DrPramodPSawant, General Secretaries Shri @NSawaikar, Shri @DamuNaik and Vice President Shri @BabuKavlekarpic.twitter.com/YcUNLrlhwV
— BJP Goa (@BJP4Goa) September 14, 2022
Congress ally Goa Forward Party was much more serious in wording its concerns, calling the defectors “enemies of people and God” who “allowed them(selves) to be purchased like cattle”. “Political defections are not just a betrayal of the people’s mandate… [but] denigration and mockery of God,” its statement read.
In between, the AAP, which has two MLAs in Goa, didn’t miss the chance for a swipe.
“Operation Lotus fails in Delhi and Punjab (where AAP in power), succeeds in Goa… Because when you vote for Congress, you elect a future BJP MLA,” said party MP Raghav Chadha in a tweet, adding, “Congress is over, resting in pieces.” This was in line with AAP boss Arvind Kejriwal’s recent assertion in Gujarat: “The Congress is finished.”
The defection is a 2019 redux for the Congress in Goa, where 10 of its 15 MLAs walked away to the BJP three years ago too. Singed once, twice shy, this year the party had made its poll candidates take a loyalty pledge. Yet what’s happened now wasn’t unexpected — the party has said so — because it had only just staved off a defection bid in July.
Besides Digambar Kamat and Michael Lobo, those who defected are Mr Lobo’s wife Delilah Lobo, Rajesh Phaldesai, Kedar Naik, Sankalp Amonkar, Aleixo Sequeira and Rudolf Fernandes.