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Will Digambar Kamat wait to be CM again on March 10?

by | Mar 1, 2022 | Goa 2022, India

Digambar Kamat is the most matured and seasoned MLA to head any political party as the CM in Goa, and he commands the respect of the entire party.
Digambar Kamat and Rahul Gandhi

Delhi: Digambar Kamat, Congress’s CLP Leader in the outgoing Goa Legislative Assembly seat remarked yesterday that the “democratic election process of Indian National Congress has begun in Goa. I appeal to all Goa Congress functionaries as well as Members of Frontal Organisations to participate in Membership Drive & strengthen Congress Party”. The man who was worried about whether his party would even have the numbers to field its candidates not even a year ago was taking charge of his party. This was a first.

An obvious CM-in-waiting 

The Indian National Congress in Goa did not project any CM candidate, unlike the BJP which peddled Dr Pramod Sawant as its Chief Ministerial candidate. Even the Aam Admi Party boasted of a Bhandari CM, and the Trinamool Congress first announced fighting the Goa polls with its own CM face and three months later changed it to having an alliance CM face with Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party. The reason was both tactical and practical. Practical because Digambar being the Congress Legislature Party Leader and the previous Congress CM was an obvious choice and there was no need to state the obvious. But the tactical reason was more interesting.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and new entrants Aam Aadmi Party have left no chance to attack Kamat for his role as Mining Minister during the alleged multi-crore mining scam of 2011 when he was also the Chief Minister. The charges have since then been proven suspect. A buoyant Digambar has purposely kept the attacks up against his detractors turning the allegations against him on their head yet at the same time keeping the party free of any unwanted allegations and scandals.

The INC did have the choice of projecting Digambar as its CM face (a la-Capt. Amarinder Singh in Punjab Elections 2017) or appointing him the GPCC President to revamp the Party and then ascend the throne (a la-Bhupesh Baghel in Chhattisgarh 2018). With no one trustworthy to take on the BJP in the Goa Legislative Assembly after the shocking departure of 10 MLAs in 2019, Digambar kept the Congress flock afloat in the House. Digambar wilfully remained a first-among-the-equals as Goa in general, and Salcette in particular, where Digambar contests usually shun larger-than-life leaders looming from outdoor hoardings and posters. The gamble seems to have worked.

Also Read: A Game of Oaths: Why is everybody swearing prematurely in Goa Polls 2022?

The young ‘sixty-something’ CM

Strange though it may seem, it was Digambar Kamat who gave the Congress a stable, defection-free government in the past two decades. Leading a government of warring opposites ranging from Churchill Alemao to Mickky Pacheco and Anatansio Monserrate to Vishwajeet Rane, Digambar has been the only CM around to have kept the ship of government united and afloat despite numerous scandals rocking his government. His last government was also a notorious band of scheming geriatrics and corrupt Congressmen who were responsible for Congress’ ignominious exit from power in 2012 but Digambar would always come out unscathed.

This time around, he leads an expected band of MLAs and wannabe Ministers averaging around 45 years of age. The new generation leaders are a heady mix of celebrated lawyers, ex-servicemen, activists, self-made entrepreneurs and even humble teachers. This is quite a contrast to the style of a man who was alleged to have done a balancing act to remain in power the first time with established, winnable Congress veterans. This time around  he breaks the stereotype to lead a team of starry-eyed, idealistic and committed team members who quite conform to  Rahul Gandhi’s new Congress.

Despite his silence on setting up of a Block Committee in neighbouring Fatorda constituency (where GFP Supremo Vijai Sardesai contests from) and finally tying the pre-poll alliance knot with Goa Forward Party much to the unhappiness of a small section of Congressmen, Digambar pulled off an interesting combination of hard-nosed negotiation (giving GFP just 3 seats from the demanded 12) and keeping Congressmen happy by contesting on 37 seats (including quite a few which didn’t even have constituency level party organisation) to enter the poll hustings. The seemingly rigid oldie demonstrated the flexibility of a gymnast.

Unchallenged to the throne

In the 2017 Goa Assembly, despite being the lone largest party with 17 seats the Congress failed. Why? Because then GPCC President (now a TMC Rajya Sabha MP) Luizinho Faleiro had 11 MLAs backing him, 6-time CM Pratapsingh Rane had 2 MLAs while Digambar had 5 MLAs with him. This time, not only is Digambar the only man between the throne and himself — but he is also the most matured and seasoned MLA to head any political party as the CM in Goa. And he commands the respect of the entire party.

What makes Digambar’s position unassailable is the backing of a new entrant to the party BJP Minister turned Congressman Michael Lobo. Lobo who very famously quipped to a local TV network in Goa that even he was in the race for CM’s position, has quickly denied it since then saying that he was new to the party and hence would be going by the Party’s diktat. Lobo,  who is also Congress’ biggest foray into North Goa in the past was interestingly the architect of the BJP forming the government in 2017. This time he backs and teams up with Digambar and is keen to serve as his deputy and understudy.

For Digambar, the clock comes a full circle. For the past decade, every time there were rumbles of dissent in the BJP government, the common rumour that was spread by the BJP’s IT Cell was that Digambar was joining the BJP and would be the CM to replace Manohar Parrikar and/or others. Digambar now has the last laugh with the entry to the Congress of former BJP Minister Michael Lobo.

As the countdown begins for the EVMs to be unsealed next week, there is more riding on Digambar’s shoulders than leading a stable government, he leads the dreams of an emphatic Congress return.

Our Correspondent
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