8 Goa MLAs dump Congress, join BJP

8 Goa MLAs dump Congress, join BJP
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Digambar Kamat, the former CM, says he has taken permission from God before joining the BJP

Highlights

Kamat says he had taken permission from God before joining the BJP

Panaji: Seven months after they took a 'loyalty pledge' at temples, churches and mosques, eight of 11 Congress MLAs in Goa have switched to the ruling BJP. They had even taken an oath in the presence of Rahul Gandhi, hoping to convince voters -- and the party leadership -- that they would not switch after elections.

Digambar Kamat, who led the defections, said he and the rest of the MLAs had taken permission from God before joining the BJP and "God agreed".

The former Goa Chief Minister said he believes in God and it is true that before the election, they had taken an oath not to leave the Congress. But he gave himself an easy out. "I went to the temple again and asked God what to do. God told me do whatever is best for you," he told reporters.

It was in February, days before the Goa election, that Congress candidates took a pledge of loyalty in Rahul Gandhi's presence. "We have taken a promise in front of temple, mosque and church. Today, we are taking an oath in front of Rahul-ji, our boss," Sankalp Amonkar, one of the defectors, had said at the time.

The Congress was not taking any chances after a big chunk of its MLAs left the party in 2019.

In 2017, the Congress emerged single-largest, winning 17 of 40 seats in Goa. But the BJP, after winning 13 seats, took power with help from smaller parties and independents. Two years later, 15 Congress MLAs switched to the BJP.

In the latest election, the Congress put up its candidates at a resort a day before the results. Kamat called defections "the death of democracy" at the time.

Within months, in July, Kamat was in focus when reports surfaced of a possible Congress coup. But after brief suspense for two days, all "missing" MLAs, including Kamat and Michael Lobo were back, emphatically denying any intention to split the party. The rebels reportedly didn't have enough MLAs on their side to avoid the anti-defection law.

The mass defection is a huge embarrassment for the Congress in the middle of Rahul Gandhi's 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' (Unite India March), at which the BJP has been taking jibes: "Jodo (Unite) your party first."

With eight MLAs breaking away as a group - that is two thirds of the party strength - they can't be disqualified under the anti-defection law. The group has asked to merge into the BJP.

The BJP and its allies are already in a majority in Goa with 25 MLAs, five over the half-way mark in the 40-member Assembly. The BJP is now at 33; the Opposition is down to just seven MLAs.

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