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Goa Congress Still Far From Revival

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Mapusa: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi addresses during a public rally at Mapusa in poll bound Goa on Jan 30, 2017. (Photo: IANS) by .
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi (Photo: IANS)

The removal of senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh as general secretary in-charge of Goa may not really spark a resurrection in the state unit just yet….writes Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

Mapusa: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi addresses during a public rally at Mapusa in poll bound Goa on Jan 30, 2017. (Photo: IANS) by .
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi addresses during a public rally at Mapusa in Goa (Photo: IANS)

Mauled of its dignity after it failed to form a government in the coastal state, despite emerging as the single-largest party in the February 4 polls, the Congress leadership here continues to be divided over several issues. Sorting out the differences and providing a united opposition against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led alliance government will be the key task ahead for Chella Kumar, once Singh’s understudy, who has now been tasked with overseeing state party affairs.

Singh’s ouster has come as a relief for state president Luizinho Faleiro, who was engaged in a running feud with the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister.

Singh backed a pre-poll alliance with a regional party, Goa Forward, while Faleiro was keen on going solo. This difference in approach was one of the key reasons for the Faleiro-Digvijaya spat on election eve.

This also delayed and eventually derailed the alliance talks with Goa Forward, which had won three seats in the polls, while the Congress had won 17 in the 40-member Goa assembly.

Two weeks before the polls, just after a press conference addressed by Singh, the veteran leader’s effigy was burnt below the Congress headquarters in Panaji, in “protest” against his preference for an alliance with Goa Forward.

While Singh was seen as a confidant of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, Faleiro, a two-time Chief Minister, is known for his proximity to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and has been a part of the Congress Working Committee and in-charge of overseeing the party’s affairs in the northeastern states for several years before he was sent back to state politics in 2014.

Singh’s exit is a shot in the arm for Faleiro, under whose leadership the Congress has already lost one sitting legislator, Vishwajit Rane, who has been inducted into the BJP as a cabinet minister for health.

The Congress, however, is unwilling to concede that rifts within the state unit had anything to do with Singh’s controversial ouster.

“Appointments of All India Congress Committee general secretaries for states is the prerogative of the Congress President. The state’s unit has no role in it,” state Congress chief spokesperson Sunil Kawthankar said.

Singh has played down his sacking as AICC general secretary for Goa and poll-bound Karnataka.

“I am loyal to the party and the Nehru-Gandhi family and owe my position to the party and to them. I am happy finally a new team is being picked up by Rahul Gandhi-ji,” Singh said in a tweet soon after his ouster on April 29.