Congress’s Comeback After Losing 8 Of 11 MLAs To BJP In Goa

New Delhi/Panaji: The Congress today deployed some wordplay in defence after the embarrassing defection of eight of its 11 MLAs in Goa to the BJP. “It’s Operation Kichad (Mud),” said party spokesperson Pawan Khera, playing on ‘Operation Lotus’ — named after the BJP poll symbol — often used for BJP’s splintering of Opposition parties.

“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.

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.

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.

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.

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