Barely two months after the Congress looked to have staved off a defection bid, eight of its 11 MLAs led by top leaders Digambar Kamat and Michael Lobo will join the ruling BJP later today, sources said. They met the Vidhan Sabha Speaker, besides Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. If eight MLAs break away as a group — two thirds of the party strength, that is — they can avoid disqualification under the anti-defection law.
This morning, the MLAs’ meeting with the Speaker sparked speculations as the assembly is not in session. State BJP chief Sadanand Shet Tanavade then told news agency PTI that they are joining the party.
Digambar Kamat and Michael Lobo were at the centre of the switchover speculation in July, and the Congress had even asked the speaker to disqualify them under the anti-defection law.
Mr Kamat, a former chief minister, had said he was “shocked and stunned” at the allegations of leading a division. Even Michael Lobo, the Congress removed as Leader of Opposition, had claimed there was “no talk of any division”. Mr Lobo had switched from the BJP to Congress just before the elections earlier this year.
The Congress was singed in a similar fashion in 2019, when two thirds of its assembly strength — 10 of 15 MLAs — defected to the BJP, which is why the party this year made its candidates take a loyalty vow.
Yet, the latest defection wasn’t entirely unexpected, even though in July the Congress managed to keep at least seven of its MLAs with it. There was no final move by the four others, including — besides Mr Lobo and Mr Kamat — Kedar Naik and Delilah Lobo, Mr Lobo’s wife.
Senior leader Mukul Wasnik had been deputed by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to handle the crisis, and he appeared to have stopped it.
Or not quite, going by what’s happening now.
The latest reports of defection come when the Congress is holding a Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March), led by Rahul Gandhi, while the BJP has been taking jibes: “Unite your party first.”
In the Goa Vidhan Sabha, the BJP already has a majority of 25 in the House of 40 — 20 MLAs of its own, plus two from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, and three independents. This will go up to 33 once eight from the Congress come in. The Congress will have three left now, while the AAP has two MLAs and the Revolutionary Goans Party has one.