The Congress yet again failed to oust the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from power in Goa due to its shortcomings and leadership crisis in the state.
In fact, the duo of Goa Congress president Girish Chodankar and legislature party leader Digambar Kamat ensured that their party snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and thus give the BJP its third term in power.
Chodankar is on an extension as he had resigned from the party post after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections but was asked to continue by the central leadership.
In fact, it was Kamat himself who had suggested to the Congress high command that Chodankar should lead the party in the assembly elections. Kamat’s comfort level with Chodankar was too obvious.
The Congress ran a lacklustre campaign across Goa till ports minister Michael Lobo quit the BJP to join the grand old party barely weeks ahead of the elections. Post his joining, the Congress party’s campaign underwent a drastic change.
In the election results too, Lobo showed his prowess. Out of the 11 Congress candidates who won the elections, five were backed by Lobo.
Not only did he retain the Calungate assembly seat and ensured his wife Delilah’s victory from Siolim, he also helped four other Congress candidates win from the BJP bastion North Goa.
On the other hand, Kamat, a former chief minister, was mainly confined to his seat.
With the Congress out of power for another five years now, Kamat once again has started lobbying for the post of the Congress legislature party (CLP) leader who will automatically become the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in Goa.
Though not named, Kamat, 68, was by all means the party’s chief ministerial face in the just-concluded assembly elections. He was the chief minister of Goa from 2007 to 2012 and an LoP in the previous assembly as well.
Though the Congress is not inclined to naming him the LoP once again, Kamat has started putting pressure on the leadership and launched attempts to woo the newly-elected legislators. But he is not in a commanding position as six legislators are backing Lobo.
That leaves Kamat with five candidates.
Lobo, 45, was considered very close to former chief minister Manohar Parrikar and remained a powerful minister in the previous BJP government.
The BJP had tried to persuade him to abandon his plan to join the Congress. Former Maharashtra chief minister and Goa in-charge Devendra Fadnavis even went to his residence to have breakfast with him in his bid to dissuade him from jumping the BJP ship.
The Trinamool Congress through poll strategist Prashant Kishor too tried to woo him.
However, he had already made up his mind to join the Congress. Kamat is now trying to influence the legislators and requesting them to support his candidature as the LoP.
The central leadership of the Congress is expected to take a call keeping in mind the party’s future in Goa given that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had already made inroads into the state by winning two seats.
The AAP is projecting itself as a credible alternative to the Congress and had campaigned on the vulnerability of the legislators of the grand old party to defect to other parties.
That said, the Congress by naming Kamat as the CLP leader will antagonise a large section within the party and the move would be akin to scoring a self-goal. This will also hamper the party’s revival bid in Goa, especially when it is out of power for a third successive time and stare at the possibility of being reduced to political margins in the state.
To prevent Goa from becoming another Delhi or Bihar or Uttar Pradesh for that matter, the Congress leadership will have to assert itself and hand over the key posts to those who will take the party on the revival path in the next couple of months.