Turmoil in Goa hints at rift between CM Sawant and Vishwajit Rane: GPCC sources

Power dynamics between the two leaders, as well as the state and central BJP leadership, have instigated the Goan political crisis

Joshua GeorgeUpdated: Thursday, July 14, 2022, 11:53 AM IST
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In an attempt to neutralise Vishwajit Rane (left) Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has allegedly engineered a coup to rope in suspended CLP leader Michael Lobo |

Goa finds itself in a political crisis yet again with senior leaders Michael Lobo and Digambar Kamat conspiring to defect to the BJP. The Congress Goa desk in charge Dinesh Gundu Rao confirmed on Sunday that the BJP was trying for a 2/3rd split to see that a minimum of eight MLAs leave the Congress party.

Denying allegations of the BJP’s involvement in trying to break up the Congress in Goa, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said; “We have a stable government with the support of 25 MLAs. Since they have nothing else to do they are playing this blame game drama.”

Sources have told the Free Press Journal that suspended CLP leader and Calangute MLA Lobo was being cornered by Town and Country Planning (TCP) Minister Vishwajit Rane, and hence he was conspiring to defect to the BJP to protect his own interests.

Rane-Lobo faceoff

Lobo’s departure from the BJP to the Congress before the 2022 assembly election had exposed his hidden skeletons. Earlier in May 2022, a war of words broke out between Lobo and Rane. An FIR was filed against Lobo and his wife Delilah, the Siolim MLA, for alleged land filling and tree cutting in Parra, the village where the couple live.

Lobo was further issued show cause notices over illegalities in regard to two of his hotel resorts in the popular Baga area. The TCP minister warned that if no correct answers were received in this regard, then both resorts would be demolished.

Rane's rise in the party

In the lead-up to the election, both Rane and Sawant were vying for the CM’s post. Post elections before declaration of results, this correspondent was informed by BJP sources that the local Goa BJP unit would back Sawant. However, there was likelihood that the BJP high command would consider Rane as the CM candidate.

The final decision to stick with Sawant was perhaps to pacify the RSS in Goa, of which Sawant is a member. In lieu of this Rane was given important portfolios of town and country planning, urban development and forest, while also being handed women and child and retaining the health ministry.

The power dynamic changed here as Rane utilised his position as TCP minister to target Lobo’s business interests along the North Goa coastal belt. The constant attacks on the then CLP leader raised his stock within the BJP. The chief minister remained a silent observer while the two powerhouses went head to head, even taking their war of words to Twitter.

State and centre at loggerheads

Sources from the Goa Pradesh Congress Party (GPCC) have alleged that the BJP state leadership, including President Sadanand Tanavade, is against the idea of further defections from the Congress and, more importantly, Lobo. They also stated that Sawant and the central leadership are engineering the move with monetary incentives. The alleged amount being offered for defecting MLAs is Rs1 crore on the date and Rs40 crore later.

On the other hand, GPCC said that the former Congress chief minister Digambar Kamat had conspired to change sides in lieu of a Lok Sabha seat on a BJP ticket for the upcoming general election. On being questioned if Kamat’s reason to engineer a move away was because he felt sidelined after being ignored for the post of CLP leader, the GPCC source was quick to retort, saying he didn’t deliver on his promise of winning the South Goa seats of Fatorda and Navelim (the former has historically been a Congress seat).

Disqualification petitions filed

The Congress on Tuesday issued disqualification petitions to Kamat and the former leader of opposition Lobo before the speaker of the house Ramesh Tawadkar over the allegation of "conspiring and hobnobbing" with the ruling BJP to engineer a split.

GPCC general secretary James Andrade told FPJ that the disqualification petitions are to set an example across the country that party betrayal won't be tolerated. On the other hand, however, the Revolutionary Goans Party MLA from St Andre constituency, Viresh Borkar, told FPJ that this is an action replay of the previous tenure by the Congress MLAs. “Goans have been betrayed yet again,” he said. “Until the people realise that the Congress is not the solution to a viable and strong opposition, this phenomenon of horse trading will continue to exist. It’s down to the people to make a change,” he said.

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