In another setback to the Congress ahead of Goa polls, party MLA and former chief minister Ravi Naik tendered his resignation from the state assembly on Tuesday.
Earlier, former Goa chief minister Luizinho Faleiro had resigned as Congress MLA in September this year and later joined the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, which has decided to contest the state polls due early next year.
With Naik's resignation, the Congress' strength in the 40-member Goa assembly has come down to three.
Reacting to Naik's resignation, state Congress chief Girish Chodankar said the party had "disowned" him long back and he was not even being considered as the party's candidate for the forthcoming state polls.
Naik, who represented Ponda constituency in Goa, submitted his resignation to Legislative Assembly Speaker Rajesh Patnekar.
He was accompanied by his two sons, who joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party last year.
“I have resigned. I will let you know what is the next course of action,” Naik told reporters here after submitting his resignation.
According to sources, Naik is expected to join the BJP later in the day in the presence of the party's Goa election in-charge Devendra Fadnavis.
Ravi Naik's younger son Roy Naik said he has requested his father to join the BJP.
In the 2017 state assembly polls, the Congress had emerged as the single largest party by winning 17 seats. However, the BJP, which had won 13 seats, forged an alliance with some regional outfits and independents to form government in the coastal state.
Meanwhile, Chodankar claimed Naik's exit will not dent the Congress as the latter was "only technically present in the party".
"His one leg was already in the BJP. He had sent his sons to the BJP first,” the Congress leader told reporters.
Chodankar said the Congress has already started creating a new leadership in the Ponda Assembly constituency.
“We had not involved Naik in any of the party functions. We had disowned Naik long back,” he said.
The Congress leader said he had already predicted that Naik would quit the party four-five months before the elections.
The Ponda block committee, during a meeting held to shortlist the candidate from the constituency for the forthcoming, had not mentioned Naik's name, he said.
“Naik was not even considered as the party's candidate for the next election,” he added.
Since the 2017 state Assembly polls, a number of Congress MLAs quit the party and joined the BJP.
Valpoi MLA Vishwajit Rane was the first to resign from the Congress. He later joined the BJP and won the bypoll from the seat. Rane is currently the state's health minister.
Soon after Rane's exit, two more Congress MLAs -- Subhash Shirodkar (who represented Shiroda seat) and Dayanand Sopte (Mandrem) -- left the party to join the BJP. Both of them later won the by-elections held in May 2019.
The biggest setback for the Goa Congress came in July 2019, when a group of its 10 MLAs, led by then Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar, quit the party.
Kavlekar is currently serving as deputy chief minister in the Pramod Sawant-led state government.
At present, the Congress has only three MLAs in the state -- Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat, Aleixo Reginaldo (representing Curtorim Assembly seat) and Pratapsingh Rane (from Poriem seat).