Govt renders Congress voiceless

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SOIRU VELIP & ROHAN SHRIVASTAV | NT

PANAJI

Despite being the single largest party with 16 legislators in the state assembly, the Opposition Congress party has gone in  a  silent mode with  most of its leaders refraining themselves from taking on the alleged wrongdoings of the ruling coalition.

The Congress has also shied away from raising issues concerning the common man.

The party has failed to build up pressure on the coalition government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party on various issues pertaining to the state in the last nine months. Though some Congress MLAs did make attempts to corner the government on issues like nationalisation of rivers and coal pollution they did not get the active support from their peers.

Many in the Congress feel that Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has succeeded in suppressing the voice of the Opposition by reopening cases against some of the front-ranking leaders; the new MLAs find themselves in a predicament with no support coming from seniors.

It is pertinent to note here that many senior Congress legislators are not in a position, or rather they refrain themselves from raising issues or picking holes in policies of the government as they have been slapped with various criminal cases against them. Hence it appears that they have surrendered before the government as an Opposition.

The BJP and the Goa Forward Party, which are coalition partners in the government with the MGP and Independent legislators, have not been missing any opportunity to expose the acts and deeds of the Congress and its leaders committed while they were in power.

In addition to this, it is alleged that Goa pradesh Congress committee chief Shantaram Naik has been trying to control the party leaders including MLAs. He has changed the media cell chairman and newly appointed chief of the media cell has not addressed even one press conference since he took over.

Many in the party have been complaining that they are not allowed to raise public issues by the GPCC president. There has also been a complaint of the GPCC officials that the president does not allow them to talk to the media.

Though the Congress succeeded in improving its tally to 17 in the last assembly elections from nine in the 2012 assembly poll, it failed to bring together likeminded parties and MLAs after the results to form the government. Since then neither the Opposition party leaders have succeeded in capitalising on the lapses on the part of the government nor they have been successful in playing their role as constructive Opposition.

Opposition leader Chandrakant ‘Babu’ Kavlekar, who had been active and vocal initially, has become silent and has apparently succumbed to the pressure put by enforcement agencies in the alleged disproportionate assets case.

The case had initially been probed by the anti-corruption branch of the directorate of vigilance and later was transferred to the crime branch.

The ACB had conducted several raids at different locations including the office of Kavlekar, wheresleuths unearthed thousands of matka slips and books. He was also booked under the gambling act.

The government has also targeted other Opposition leaders including former chief minister and Margao MLA Digambar Kamat. He has been under probe over his alleged role in multi-crore mining illegalities as well as Louise Berger bribery case. Kamat has been made to take more rounds of the crime branch office as compared to his own party office.

Besides, in June 2014 an FIR was registered on charges of extortion and corruption against senior Congress leader and Poriem MLA Pratapsingh Rane and his son Vishwajit Rane who changed sides and is currently holds a ministerial post in the BJP-led government.

Since the day Shantaram Naik took over the party leadership most vocal young Congressmen like Girish Chodankar and Yatish Naik, who had been at the forefront in attacking the government on every relevant issue, have lost their voice.

They make ‘guest’ appearances before the media only with the permissions of the party chief. The chief spokesperson of the party Sunil Kawthankar is not seen in the party office, and he hasn’t taken a single press conference since Shantaram Naik took charge.

The GPCC chief himself has cut a sorry picture as and when he is asked questions on major local issues. He either refuses to comment saying that he is ‘unaware’ of the issues and that he would clarify on the issues later, which mostly do not take place.

The current GPCC president has been accused by his own party men that he mostly raises national issues and ignore the local issues concerning Goa. The Congressmen have expressed disappointment over his “anti-party” role. They also alleged that despite his poor performance he is leaving no stone unturned for a second term.

“The Congress party is the oldest parties in the history of Indian politics and that it has successfully survived many an onslaughts because ‘democracy’ is the essence of our organisation.  The environment, however, has changed under the current state president and the party is losing its sheen,” said one of the senior Congressmen adding that the high command should appoint a new chief for the state Congress to revive its glory.

Another Congress leader quipped that Shantaram Naik’s leadership is restricted to himself, his tablet (electronic device) and the coterie hanging around him.

The Goa desk in-charge Dr Chella Kumar had earlier said that in November 2017 the Congress party would file a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the order of the High Court of Bombay at Goa, which dismissed the disqualification petition that had been filed by the party against Vishwajit Rane. However, even after 60 days the party failed to do so giving Vishwajit Rane a chance to get away with the action of ditching the Congress.

The sources in the Congress are hopeful that the new GPCC leader would be named by end of this month after AICC president Rahul Gandhi returns from tour of West Asia.