A day after firefighting in Goa to keep its flock together, leaders of the Congress, off the record, described the “Operation Lotus” the ruling BJP allegedly attempted. Sources said the BJP had a chartered flight ready to move six Congress MLAs out of Goa — all the MLAs had been incommunicado on Sunday, setting alarm bells ringing in Panaji and Delhi. The ruling BJP has denied allegations of involvement. “The BJP has nothing to do with whatever is happening in the Congress party,” said party spokesman Yatish Naik.
A top BJP leader, sources in the Congress said, was personally in touch with the Congress MLAs. The MLAs, sources said, were offered huge sums of money — Rs 15 crore to Rs 20 crore — to defect to the BJP. But the plan was finally dropped as the numbers did not add up, the sources said.
To avoid the anti-defection law, there should be two-thirds of the Congress MLAs changing sides. With the party having 11 MLAs, there should have been at least eight MLAs ready to cross over.
The Congress had reacted quickly to the crisis, sacking its Leader of Opposition Michael Lobo and publicly accusing its former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat of “conspiring” against his own party. The party has also requested the assembly Speaker to disqualify two of its MLAs — Digambar Kamat and Michael Lobo — disqualified under the anti-defection law.
Congress’s Goa desk in charge Dinesh Gundu Rao alleged that Michael Lobo and Digambar Kamat were “hatching a conspiracy by hobnobbing with the BJP to engineer a split in the Congress”.
“They (the BJP) want that there be no opposition in the country. They want to break the opposition. They want to supress the voice of opposition. That was their attempt,” Congress’s state unit chief Amit Patkar told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
“We have tried our level best to foil their attempt… Their operation failed in Goa. Now they will deny that they were involved in it. But in 2019, they tried the same thing. But this time, they were not successful,” he added.
The crisis in the opposition Congress in Goa comes on the heels of the huge political crisis in Maharashtra that saw the collapse of the Uddhav Thackeray government and the installation of the Eknath Shinde-BJP combine.
The missing MLAs turned up today for the assembly session, insisting that all was well and they had gone to south Goa for a meeting.
“There is nothing wrong. I don’t know what is the problem. All Congress MLAs were together. We went to South Goa for a meeting on Sunday. They (Congress leaders) again wanted to have another press conference which was not required, so we did not attend it,” said Michael Lobo, whose wife Delialah Lobo is also a Congress MLA.
Late this evening, Mr Lobo, reiterated: “There is some misunderstanding. i’ll go and explain… We have attended all the press conferences. There cannot be so many press conferences to explain your position… I think people will get confused”.