Mayabhushan Nagvenkar says warring Goa Congress is now going for its own jugular
Goa’s most bitter political war is strangely a one-party affair.Battered and bruised in the state elections in 2012 and the general elections this year, the Congress appears to be going for its own jugular, with the top leaders increasingly hurling venom-laced lances at each other at every opportunity.
Rivalries between the party leaders reached an unprecedented high last week, when a mine operator, Bhalchandra Naik, charged leader of opposition and veteran Congressman Pratapsing Rane and his son Vishwajeet with accepting nearly Rs.10 crore ($1.6 million) to lobby with the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre for a mining lease in North Goa.
Naik was flanked by state Congress president John Fernandes, who did not contest the allegation.
Both Rane and his son have rejected the allegation.
Rane said that he barely knew Naik and that it was just an attempt to defame his “standing in politics”.
“I am considering legal options against him. I barely know him,” Rane told IANS, while Vishwajeet Rane termed the charge “baseless”.
Fernandes, a two-time Rajya Sabha MP, took over the party’s reins just before the April-May Lok Sabha elections and has consistently maintained that he has been asked by the party high command to stem the rot within the party and to revive the organisation.
“I have been told to revive the party. I am just going about my job,” said Fernandes, a claim that is opposed by the party’s senior leaders but has found takers among the younger ambitious members.
The average age of a recently reshuffled panel of party spokespersons is on the younger side of 30 years. But Fernandes has been virtually boycotted by most of the party’s nine legislators. Only three attended a Pradesh Congress Committee session last week where All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Digvijaya Singh was present.
Congress legislator from Dabolim Mauvin Godinho has accused Fernandes of “working overtime to finish the party”.
Sensing trouble brewing, Digvijaya Singh has asked Fernandes to “speak less and work more”.
Fernandes’ belligerence is not Digvijaya Singh’s only headache. He will also have to work his gray cells harder to return the party’s seemingly reluctant legislative unit to attack mode.
Rane has been criticised within the party for not being vocal enough and giving a free run to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the assembly.
Rane, who has been tasked with submitting a malgovernance charge-sheet to the Goa Governor and the assembly speaker, said that he was not sure who was formulating the document, which is expected to be submitted on July 22, the first day of the monsoon session.
“I do not know who is doing it. It is for the party to decide,” Rane said, adding that he did not believe in just slamming the government.
“I want to see good things happen in this State,” he said, when asked about the issues he was likely to raise during the monsoon session.
Speaking to a local news channel last week, Digvijaya Singh obliquely admitted that the Congress’ performance in the state legislative assembly had a dulled edge.
“Rane-ji is too much of a gentleman,” he explained with a smile, insisting that Rane, a chief minister for nearly 20 years (over several terms), would be able to do justice to his role as leader of the opposition.
The BJP, meanwhile, appears to be enjoying the discomfiture of the “numb and dumb” Congress leaders.
“Their leaders are so numb and dumb that they have to depend on a central leader like Digvijaya Singh to announce the charge-sheet. Could they not do it themselves,” asked Goa BJP vice president Wilfred Mesquita.
“We feel the need for a good Opposition. Democracy demands a good Opposition. Right now there is none,” he quipped.