Mumbai: Goa MLA and former CM Luizinho Faleiro resigned from the Congress Monday and hinted that he would soon join the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, which has expressed its intention of contesting the 2022 Goa election.
Faleiro, a seven-term Congress MLA from Navelim in south Goa, is the 13th MLA to leave the party since 2017.
With his resignation, the Congress, which in the 2017 assembly elections had emerged as the single largest party (even though it failed to form government), with 17 of Goa’s 40 assembly seats, has been left with just four MLAs, and there’s less than six months to go for assembly polls in the state.
Even the four remaining MLAs present a divided house: Three of them — Pratapsingh Rane, Ravi Naik, and Aleixo Reginald Lourenco — are said to be disillusioned with the Congress’ leadership in Goa. Moreover, two of them, Rane and Naik, have sons who are BJP members.
Dissenting Congress functionaries see the fourth MLA, Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat, as a power centre — along with Goa Congress president Girish Chodankar — and claim that the two leaders have sidelined senior Congressmen in the state.
“Today, the Congress family is divided and we have to think out of the box and see who is the best suited to face the ruling dispensation in Delhi and Goa,” Faleiro said, addressing a press conference Monday evening.
“I have maintained a dignified silence on my sufferings for 4.5 years. But, my suffering is not important. The sufferings of the people of Goa who gave their precious vote and who were betrayed, their suffering is much more than my suffering.
“Today the Goa Congress is back to what it was when I took over during the 2017 elections (to steer the campaign). Please don’t ask me to talk more,” he added, saying the Congress members in Goa are the ones who have destroyed the Congress party.
Meanwhile, All India Congress Committee’s Goa in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao too addressed a press meet Monday, where he claimed Faleiro’s resignation was a blessing in disguise. “He had lost touch with the people in his constituency. We were reassessing the situation there,” Rao told the press.
Also present at the press meet was Kamat, who said the Congress will continue to “put up a united front in the assembly” even after Faleiro’s resignation. Chodankar, who too attended the conference, slammed Faleiro for ditching the people of Goa at a time when the Congress is emerging as the main opposition to the BJP in the state.
“He (Faleiro) speaks of starting a movement in Goa. But, where was he when the Congress was taking up various issues?” Chodankar asked.
The decline from 2017
In the 2017 Goa assembly poll, the Congress had emerged as the single-largest party with 17 seats and was three short of the halfway mark. The BJP, which had 13 seats, however, cobbled together an alliance with regional outfits Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP) to form a government.
While speaking to the press in Panaji Monday, Faleiro said, he had been ready with the support of 21 MLAs to form a Congress-led government in Goa, but the AICC in-charges of party affairs in Goa stopped him.
“The rest is history. I was pained. I was shattered. The next day when we lost the government, they told me you are selected as CLP (Congress Legislative Party) leader. I told them I will not accept as people are angry. They have given us a mandate and we have failed to fulfill this mandate,” Faleiro said.
In October 2018, two Congress MLAs—Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte — resigned from the party to defect to the BJP, and in July 2019, ten more Congress MLAs, included the then leader of opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar, merged themselves with the BJP, reducing the Congress’ tally to five.
A divided house
Less than six months before assembly elections in Goa, Congress’ state unit is struggling to contain intense factionalism with several senior state party functionaries having spoken out against the existing leadership, primarily Chodankar and Kamat.
Last week, Goa Congress general secretary Vijai Pai and secretary Mario Pinto held a press conference to say that the party has sidelined all its senior leaders and nobody knows who is making the decisions.
“I have been in Congress for 28 years, but I don’t see any direction in the party for the first time today. Those who don’t win elections get the big posts and those who win are sidelined,” Pai had said, particularly mentioning Faleiro, Rane and Naik as being disillusioned in the party.
Of the three MLAs that Pai mentioned, while Faleiro left the party Monday, Rane and Naik have indirect links to the BJP.
Rane’s son, Vishwajit Rane, joined the BJP in April 2017, when the party was trying to bolster its strength in the house, having formed a three-legged government with the GFP and MGP.
There have been rumours on several occasions of senior Rane too joining the BJP, but the Poriem MLA has dismissed them.
The latest event that sparked such a rumour, was BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis — the party’s in-charge of Goa polls — visiting Rane’s house for dinner last week, with BJP Goa President Sadanand Shet Tanavade.
Tanavade had, however, told ThePrint last week, “Pratapsingh Rane is a senior, experienced, former CM of Goa and has completed 50 years in political life. He shared his experiences. There was no discussion about him joining the BJP.”
Naik’s sons, Ritesh and Roy, too joined the BJP in August 2020. Former CM Naik had last year hit out at Chodankar and Kamat for not doing enough to strengthen the party, after which Chodankar in December last year said, “In the assembly Ravi Naik is a Congress MLA but we have stopped counting him as our legislator.”
MLA Reginald Lourenco had in July this year demanded a change in the state party leadership heading into elections. The All India Congress Committee, however, decided to retain Chodankar as president.
ThePrint reached Rane, Naik and Reginald Lourenco over calls and text messages, but received no response till the time of publication of this report.
“The Congress is simply living in its former glory. So many leaders expressed that the party will benefit from a change in leadership heading into elections, but no action was taken. Internal bickering close to elections doesn’t paint a good picture,” said a senior party functionary who did not wish to be named.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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