New Delhi: As Indian National Congress bigwigs descend on Udaipur on a 3 day brainstorming ‘Chintan Shivir’ that could course correct or set the course for the Grand Old Party for the future, its unit in Goa is imploding as a string of embarrassments have hit the party.
Turncoat CLP Leader?
In a weird display of cross-party migration, BJP turned Congress MLA and Congress Legislature Party Leader Michael Lobo has sought the appointment of former Manohar Parrikar aide Mayuresh Khaunte as OSD to Leader of the Opposition (Lobo himself) and former Parrikar Private Secretary Shailesh Ugadekar as his PS. Both Khaunte and Ugadekar are RSS and BJP members and were a part of Parrikar’s coterie during his tenure as Leader of the Opposition from 2007-to 2012 and thereafter served as members of the Chief Minister’s Office. Shailesh even actively campaigned for Utpal Parrikar, the former Chief Minister’s son against the official Congress candidate in the recently concluded Assembly Elections.
The move has raised many eyebrows as Lobo’s proximity to many BJP leaders and his calculated involvement in Congress Party affairs post elections have led to growing discontent. The appointment of hardcore RSS men in the heart of Congress’ legislative bastion in the Goa Assembly is not being taken lightly and has reached the ears of the Party High Command too.
Senior Congress leaders connected with Goa reveal that Lobo had his way whether it was fielding four candidates of his choice in as many constituencies, a move that was unprecedented from the party’s point of view. The party did not just honour his wishes but also gave him the charge to lead the Opposition in the Assembly as CLP Leader. But the overlooking and side-lining of Congress workers and leaders of equal calibre and appointing RSS/BJP men in such sensitive positions is being seen as a clear-cut case of overriding the party.
Local leaders have also confirmed that the hope of a Congress revival in the North and across the state with the arrival of Michael seems to be dimming out as Lobo seems reluctant to let go of his Parrikar fascination. From openly supporting Parrikar’s son Utpal before and after Assembly Elections for Panaji seat to employing Parrikar’s team from BJP in his official secretariat to even saying that the Government (of Goa) has just formed now and give them time for 1-2 months to see what they do about inflation. Lobo in the bargain virtually absolved his former party whose Govt has been running uninterrupted since 2012.
Calangute MLA Michael Lobo’s Congress stint has been controversial since its inception. From calling for the return of former turncoat Congress leaders such as Alexio Reginaldo Lourenco (who made a laughing stock of the party changing sides 3 times in a month) to now facing a battery of legal charges for land usage conversions by former party-mate and current BJP’s Minister for Town and Country Planning Vishwajit Rane. Rane has without naming Lobo accused him squarely stating “some people at high-level positions, Chairmans of the PDA who was instrumental in preparing the ODPs, have converted their properties while holding office…(which) amounts to prosecution under Prevention and Corruption Act for using public office for personal gains”.
What is interesting is that Rane has unleashed a barrage of charges related to TCP related offences for the past three weeks even lodging a formal FIR against Lobo and his wife Siolim MLA Delilah Lobo but seems to have missed out on a dozen more MLAs and Ministers who too have equally serious charges. The BJP’s CM-in-waiting is showing the CM Dr Pramod Sawant who is the Boss who can contain the Leader of the Opposition. But what is even weirder is the silence of his partymen.
Barring Goa Pradesh Congress Committee’s new President Amit Patkar who did not formally defend his party’s CLP Leader none of the 10 Congress MLAs has spoken a word of support for their CLP Leader as Rane Jr launches attacks daily. This also includes the other CLP Leader aspirant former CM Digambar Kamat who has in the past too never dared to take on Rane due to excellent personal equations.
As Congress settles down to debate its future at Udaipur nationally, the leaders from Goa will be attending that meet with dual motives and motivations laced with a generous dose of BJP connection.