New Delhi, January 23
Bearing the brunt of defections ever since it emerged as the single largest party in Goa in the 2017 state elections, the Congress is finally turning to God for help.
The party on Saturday took all its candidates to religious shrines — a temple, a dargah and a church — to take a pledge of loyalty to the Congress should they get elected, and not switch sides.
All 34 party candidates took the anti-defection pledge at Mahalakshmi temple in Panaji, a church in Bambolim and at a dargah at Betim village.
Goa Pradesh Congress committee president Girish Chodankar said the move was part of Congress efforts to inspire confidence among people and give them the sense that if elected party candidates would respect their mandate.
Veteran Congressman P Chidambaram, who has steered the Congress alliance with Goa Forward Party in the forthcoming elections, also accompanied the candidates.
Goa has been notorious for defections, especially over the last five years with the Congress bearing the maximum brunt. Of 17 MLAs, the party won in the 40-member Assembly, only two have stayed. The rest moved on to join the BJP which had won 13 MLAs in 2017.
Thanks to defectors, the BJP’s current strength in the state is 27. Importantly, a recent report by the Association of Democratic Reforms described defection levels in Goa as unprecedented across India. “In the five-year tenure of the current Assembly (2017-2022), as many as 24 MLAs have changed their party, which is 60 per cent of the total strength of the House. It has never happened anywhere else in India. It is a clear reflection of utter disrespect to the mandate of voters. A callous approach to ethics and discipline overborne by uncontrolled greed at its worst,” the ADR report said, arguing for stringent penalties and laws to prevent defections.
Earlier last year, Vijay Sardesai-led Goa Forward Party had taken its all three MLAs and office-bearers to the Dev Bodgeshwar temple at Mapusa to take a pledge of not supporting the BJP in the 2022 elections.
Poaching by TMC reason for no alliance: PC
Congress veteran P Chidambaram cited recent instances of poaching by the TMC as the reason behind no alliance with the party. “The TMC poached Luizinho Faleiro and even after the proposal of alliance they poached Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco whose name was in the Congress’ first list of the candidates,” Chidambaram said.
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