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'BJP spent Rs 40-50 crore on each MLA'

September 16, 2022 07:45 IST

'Since we defeated their evil designs on July 10, their poaching approach became more aggressive with using blackmail and money power as tools to finish off the political opposition in Goa.'

IMAGE: Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant with the eight Congress MLAs who joined his Bharatiya Janata Party in Panaji, September 14, 2022. Photograph: ANI

Goa Pradesh Congress Committee President Amit Patkar tells Prasanna D Zore/ why the Congress could not stave off the Bharatiya Janata party onslaught on eight of its MLAs, who defected from the Congress and will soon merge with the BJP in Goa, leaving the state's Opposition rudderless.

The Congress, you told on July 12, had defeated the BJP's 'evil designs' by stopping the entry of nine out of 11 Congress MLAs to the BJP in July 2022. Why couldn't the Congress succeed this time?

Let's be very honest. There have been senior (Goa Congress) leaders like Digambar Kamat, Michael Lobo and Joseph Sequiera who have been greedy and dishonest to people who voted for them. They have been dishonest with the Congress.

The Congress has not merged with the BJP. These people (eight Congress MLAs) have defected for their own personal benefit.

How can you align with a party against whom you had asked the people of Goa to vote for?

In Michael Lobo's case he joined the Congress after being in power for 10 years in the BJP. The Congress party gave him the highest position (leader of the Opposition in the Goa assembly).

It is very evident now that the BJP doesn't believe in democracy; they don't believe in the Constitution and it is so evident that the BJP murdered democracy in India just a day before World Democracy Day (September 15).

It's a Black Day for democracy in India. The BJP is the kingpin of this dirty and corrupt politics since 2014.

They have been using foul tactics by using money, muscle and institutions like the CBI, ED and income tax to engineer defections. They tried to do this on July 10, one day before the first session (of the Goa assembly).

Every Indian now knows that the BJP is all out to destroy democracy, dissent and political opposition.

In fact, since we defeated their evil designs on July 10, their poaching approach became more aggressive with using blackmail and money power as tools to finish off the political opposition in Goa.

They have spent Rs 40-50 crore on each person (the eight Congress MLAs who defected from the Congress on September 14 to merge with the BJP), which is huge money for a state like Goa.

Are you just shooting in the dark about these bribes or do you have any hard evidence?

Our Goa desk in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao has clearly charged the BJP with buying our MLAs with obscene amounts of money. Our sources (from within the BJP) have told us that such big amounts have been exchanged. There is no doubt about it.

This is just an allegation. Anybody can say sources said this and that...

Nobody is going to give you a photocopy of cheques or cash that was issued to them (the eight Congress MLAs who defected from the Congress).

We request the ED to investigate the source of obscene amounts of money that the BJP uses to purchase Opposition MLAs.

Won't your sources have hard evidence to prove that Rs 40-50 crore per MLA changed hands?

I don't have that information, but you can call these MLAs and ask them about it, or, perhaps you must ask the BJP spokesperson and ask him about it.

Isn't it easy to blame the BJP by saying that they bought Congress MLAs. Shouldn't the Congress not introspect why eight out of 11 Congress MLAs went to the BJP?

The BJP should answer this question. It is for every Goan and Indian to ponder today why when the BJP has a clear mandate, when they have a clear majority, what made them buy more MLAs.

The BJP's motive of buying more MLAs must be seen from the prism of the party's sole objective of finishing off democracy and dissent in this country.

Democracy will not function without a healthy Opposition and the BJP doesn't believe in having opposition.

It's not just Goa; see what happened in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh; that they had egg on their faces in Delhi and Bihar will not deter them from trying to finish off Opposition parties in all non-BJP ruled states.

Digambar Kamat has said the Congress central leadership did not respect Congress leaders in Goa, nobody consulted him or gave him due respect.

Please, recollect. He was the chief minister here (in Goa). He was the Opposition leader when we could not form the government.

He was made the permanent member of the CWC (Congress Working Committee), which is the highest decision-making body in the Congress. We fought the 2012, 2017 and 2022 elections under his leadership. We lost all these three elections.

Isn't it convenient to blame one individual for the collective failure of the state Congress unit and its national leadership?

The Congress never sidelined Digambar Kamat. He was offered the highest position in the Indian National Congress. None of the ex-chief ministers from Congress-ruled states were accommodated in the CWC. And this was done after talking to him.

Ticket distribution, selection of candidates was all done under his leadership (in 2012, 2017 and 2022).

I don't think the party has been unfair to him.

What changed between July 10 and September 14?

We had filed disqualification petitions against two of them (Kamat and Lobo) because they were the chief engineers of this defection drama that started on July 10.

They were clearly hobnobbing with the BJP and that is the reason the Speaker (Ramesh Tawadkar) also kept the matter pending (about the disqualification of Kamat and Lobo for anti-party activities). He didn't issue notices.

Eventually, they (the BJP) pressurised the MLAs so much, offered them ten times the money they were offered in July (2022) and they succeeded in getting them to defect.

Can one say that elected Congress representatives are not honest?

It is not the political party, but individuals who are being dishonest.

The majority of MLAs who have joined the BJP across India happen to be from the Congress...

Please understand that there were 11 (Congress) MLAs who had won this time. Out of that eight, who showed that they are greedy and dishonest, have gone. They have betrayed the people of Goa.

People gave them a mandate against the BJP and the BJP, mind you, has got only 33 per cent of the vote share.

67 percent of the people of Goa were against this governmen,t but still they (the eight Congress MLAs) have chosen to go there.

The BJP has successfully silenced 67 per cent of Goa's electorate with this purchase.

Out of the 10 MLAs who joined the BJP in 2019, seven MLAs lost their seats (as BJP candidates). I am sure these eight will also meet the same fate in the next elections.

The people of Goa have lost the appetite to tolerate such nonsense now. People of the state have now become tired of such defections since 2002 in Goa when Manohar Parrikar started this game.

The BJP has always been greedy for power; they don't respect democracy; they don't respect the people's mandate and they don't want opposition.

What was the harm in running the government for the next four years with a strong Opposition? I'm very sure that the three MLAs (who are still with the Congress) will give a tough time to the BJP and will expose their corruption, money and muscle politics.

IMAGE: Congress MLA Carlos Alvares Ferreira, second from right, speaks during the media briefing in the presence of Goa Congress President Amit Patkar, second from left, party MLAs Yuri Alemao and Altone D'Costa at the state party office in Panaji, September 14, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo

What's the guarantee that even these three won't join the BJP in the next four years?

The three MLAs voluntarily addressed a press conference saying that they will not leave the Congress.

Like, how Digambar Kamat and all the other MLAs who have gone to the BJP now pledged their allegiance to the Congress by visiting temples, churches and dargahs just before the assembly election? Won't voters distrust elected representatives from the Congress?

He and those who went along with him have proved how greedy they are.

If Digambar Kamat was so greedy, why did the Congress humour him since 2012?

Remember it is the eight MLAs who have gone. Not the Congress party. Individuals can be dishonest, but the Congress party will always stay humble and honest with the people of Goa and work hard to fulfill their aspirations.

A few individuals and their dishonesty can't wipe off the Congress.