Two months after the Congress was thought to have staved off a defection attempt, eight of its 11 MLAs headed by key leaders Digambar Kamat and Michael Lobo joined the governing BJP, reducing the opposition party to just three members.
Amid Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March), at which the BJP has been throwing jabs: “Jodo (Unite) your party first,” the mass exodus is very humiliating for the Congress.
With eight MLAs defecting collectively, or two-thirds of the party’s strength, they may escape being barred from running under the anti-defection statute.
Michael Lobo joked as the MLAs announced their flip in what is being referred to as yet another “Operation Lotus,” named after the BJP’s electoral emblem, “It is Congress chhoro (leave Congress), BJP ko jodo.”
Pawan Khera, a spokesman for the Congress, said, “It’s ‘Operation Keechad (Mud)’.” The Bharat Jodo Yatra has frightened the BJP, which is why it employed various strategies, including threats by thugs and money offers. Goa Forward Party, a Congress supporter, also responded with contempt, calling the defecting MLAs “symbols of unadulterated wickedness.”
The switchover rumors also focused on Digambar Kamat and Michael Lobo in July, and Congress even requested that the Speaker disqualify them following the anti-defection statute. Although no successor was nominated, the party ousted Michael Lobo as Leader of Opposition.
Since the legislature is not in session, the MLAs’ meeting with the Speaker this morning sparked rumors.
But, after that, they joined the party, according to state BJP leader Sadanand Shet Tanavade, who spoke to news outlet PTI.
In July, the claims of his being the division leader startled and astonished Mr. Kamat, a former chief minister.
There was “no mention of any schism,” according to Michael Lobo, a member of the BJP until switching to the Congress ahead of elections earlier this year.
Because the Goa Congress split similarly in 2019 when 10 out of 15 of its MLAs defected to the BJP, the party this year required its candidates to swear allegiance in Rahul Gandhi’s presence. At least eight of them were unaffected by it.
Even though Congress could retain at least seven MLAs in July, the departure wasn’t a surprise. The four others, including Mr. Lobo and Mr. Kamat, Kedar Naik, and Delilah Lobo, Mr. Lobo’s wife, did not make a decisive move.
Sonia Gandhi, the head of the Congress, had sent senior politician Mukul Wasnik to address the problem, and he seemed to have ended it. Or maybe not entirely, based on what transpired today.
The BJP has a majority of 25 in the Goa legislature, which consists of 20 of its MLAs, two from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, and three independents. Now, it will increase to 33.
There are still three members of Congress and one Goa Forward Party member. The Revolutionary Goans Party has one MLA, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has two.