Goa ex-CM Digambar Kamat, 7 other Congress MLAs join BJP

Goa CM Pramod Sawant meets eight Congress MLAs who joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Panaji on Wednesday. Photo: PTI

Panaji: Eight Congress MLAs in Goa, including former chief minister Digambar Kamat, on Wednesday joined the ruling BJP, in a body blow to the opposition party which is now left with just three MLAs in the 40-member state Assembly. 

The eight MLAs joined the BJP in presence of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and state BJP chief Sadanand Shet Tanavade. 

In a similar move in July 2019, 10 Congress MLAs switched over to the BJP in Goa. The BJP retained power in the coastal state after the state Assembly elections in March this year. 

It has 20 MLAs in the Assembly, while the Congress' strength will be depleted from 11 to three.

The eight Congress MLAs - Kamat, Michael Lobo, Delilah Lobo, Rajesh Phaldesai, Kedar Naik, Sankalp Amonkar, Aleixo Sequeira and Rudolf Fernandes - were seen interacting with Sawant in a viral photo hours ahead of formally joining the BJP.

Earlier on Wednesday, a resolution was passed in the Congress Legislature Party meeting here to merge with the BJP, Lobo said. The three other Congress MLAs - Yuri Alemao, Altone D'Costa and Carlos Alvares Ferreira - were not present when the resolution was passed, he added.

Sawant told reporters that no decision has been taken yet on a cabinet reshuffle in the backdrop of the BJP strength rising to 28 in the House. The eight Congress MLAs have joined the BJP unconditionally, Sawant said.

Sawant said the BJP now has 28 MLAs and enjoys the support of 33 MLAs altogether in the Assembly. Sawant said the "Congress Chhodo Yatra" has begun from Goa, as seen from the influx of that party's legislators into the BJP.


Joined BJP to strengthen PM's hands


Michael Lobo said they decided to strengthen the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant.

Briefing reporters in the presence of Sawant, Lobo said they have "started Congress Chhodo Yatra from Goa".

Lobo said the Congress Legislative Party's resolution has been submitted to the state legislature secretary and the chief minister.

Goa Assembly Speaker Ramesh Tawadkar has also been informed about the development, he said.


Devine approval 


Former chief minister Digambar Kamat told reporters that his decision was based on the circumstances. "When I was not chosen as leader of the opposition by the party (after the Goa polls held earlier this year), I had expressed my displeasure. If you see the letter of Gulam Nabi Azad (who quit the Congress recently), you will be able to draw the conclusion," Kamat said.

When asked about the pledge of loyalty taken by Congress candidates at a temple and a church before the Goa Assembly polls, Kamat said the crossover was done with divine consent.

Before the February 14 elections, all the Congress candidates had taken a vow at a temple and a church after filing their nomination papers that they will not leave the party if elected. The party took this added 'precaution' probably keeping in mind the 2019 exodus when ten of its 15 MLAs in Goa had joined the BJP overnight. 

Asked about the breach of pledge, Kamat told reporters here that before joining the BJP he had visited the temple again. "I went to the temple again and asked God what to do. God told me 'do whatever is best for you'," he said. 

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