THOUGH the Congress put itself to public shame for its failure to form a government in the state despite emerging as the single largest party owing to factionalism, the party seems to have learnt nothing from that bizarre experience. Dissension, division, backstabbing and open defiance of the state president continue to plague the party. When the party should have been strategising unitedly on how to defeat the BJP in Panaji and Valpoi, a group of MLAs are shamelessly busy hatching a plot to remove Luizinho Faleiro as state president. Faleiro stands in their way to let a non-BJP political group within the government establish control over the party in secret alliance with them. The group’s desire to control the party failed in the past, but it has not given it up. They have another issue against Faleiro. He did not want the party to approach Atanasio Monserrate to contest against Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar in Panaji by-election; he wanted Monserrate to approach the party. There are quite a few in the Congress who feel that the party was superior to individuals and hence ‘pleading’ to Monserrate, who is not even a member of the party to contest with Congress support, lowered the organisation’s dignity and showed it was helpless. Also, many in the Congress would not trust the seriousness of Monserrate in joining the party and taking on Parrikar. There is an apprehension that Monserrate had ditched the party for personal gain at crucial moments and could do once again. Senior Congress leaders wanted that the party should play safe and let Monserrate join the party on his own.
We have to see whether the party remains united to fight the elections in the two Assembly constituencies that have been communicated to the Election Commission of India by the state election office. The party faces a BJP candidate in Panaji who has never been defeated and a BJP candidate in Valpoi who has carried most of Congress with him in his switchover. The Congress is still hunting for candidates. It is a pity that a party that has ruled the state for more than two decades has to go on a wild goose hunt for nominees. The party organisation in Panaji has been eroded over the years and no significant efforts have been made to revive it in the state capital. Though the party has formed block-level committees across the state they exist only on paper and the real block-level leadership rests with local legislators or district leaders. There have been occasions when the party leadership has signed on dotted lines to approve the names of block-level committee members recommended by local leaders or legislators. These members owe allegiance to their ‘masters’ and not the party or its leadership. The party has gone into turmoil with the resignation of local leaders as the committee members follow their leaders into jumping from one party to another. A classic example was seen recently in Valpoi when the entire block committee changed side with Vishwajit Rane.
According to Congress insiders, Monserrate is trying hard to sell the idea of taking on Parrikar but on his own terms, which include removal of Faleiro as GPCC chief. Among the other conditions are that none from the present Congress legislators should be made GPCC president; he is also averse to any senior Congress leader taking over the reins of the party. Besides, he wants the Congress to play second fiddle and allow anyone even from “outside the party” to be made chief minister in case a toppling of the present BJP-led coalition government is engineered by him with the help of those within the government and within the Congress. The All India Congress Committee leaders looking after Goa affairs appear to have been mysteriously pulled into Monserrate’s game by holding a meeting of Congress legislators at his house, which has sent signals that the party was ready to bow even before its detractors. The Congress is indeed playing hostage to the strongman of Taleigao. Such moves on the part of some of the Congress legislators are indicative of their desperate bid to somehow come to power even at the cost of the party prestige. They even made a public announcement, of course insisting to remain anonymous, that they are trying to come to power with the help of political groups currently allied with the BJP in the government. It all depends on whether the Congress high command approves of their game or makes them to work hard for the party and wait until the next elections to win a clear mandate.