Panaji, March 23: Bickering and dissent within the Congress may just cost the party the South Goa Lok Sabha constituency, considered so safe for the party that it is often referred to as Goa’s very own Amethi.
The surprising and last minute nomination of party legislator Aleixo Reginaldo as the party’s South Goa candidate has triggered unpleasantness which the party seems unable to cope it.
A disgruntled legislator who has refused to campaign, a sulking sitting parliamentarian whose son threatens to contest as an Independent and a habitual renegade leader who has resigned from the party have combined to put one of the strongest Congress seats in the red zone.
Out of 14 general elections, Amethi has returned a Congressman 12 times, which makes it such a safe launchpad for the Gandhi clan.
But South Goa hasn’t done bad either, returning a Congress candidate 10 times out of 14. On 12 instances, the candidate has been a Catholic.
No wonder when Congress president Sonia Gandhi was scouting for another safe seat to contest more than a decade ago, South Goa was on the shortlist. She eventually chose to contest from Bellary in Karnataka.
But given the current state of affairs, even Sonia Gandhi would feel the jitters this time, even with the significant Catholic vote bank which has traditionally favoured the Congress.
“My contribution to the party over more than 20 years has been ignored by the Congress. And it is the Bharatiya Janata Party government which is doing considerable development in my Dabolim constituency. I will not under any circumstances campaign for the Congress candidate,” Congress MLA Mauvin Godhinho said Friday.
His Catholic-dominated assembly segment Dabolim is located in the South Goa constituency.
A similar rebellion is brewing in incumbent, but now spurned parliamentarian Francisco Sardinha’s camp.
His son Shalom claims his father was not even informed that the former protege and now bete noire Reginaldo had been picked.
“I am contesting the South Goa seat as an Independent. If the party does not value the work done by my father, I do not want to be in that party,” Shalom told IANS before he resigned from the party.
The third blow, which could potentially be the worst for the party’s electoral fortunes, was the resignation of former chief minister and two-term MP Churchill Alemao from the Congress’s primary membership Saturday.
“The Congress should have given a ticket to Sardinha or at least to my daughter Valanka who is a Youth Congress president,” Alemao said.
This is the third time he has quit the party in two decades.
While the three rebellious streaks are expected to affect the Catholic vote, there seems to be more trouble in store for Reginaldo from Muslims.
The All Margao Muslim Jamaat (South Goa) vice president Matin Carol told reporters that his organisation has declared Reginaldo as a “communal candidate”.
“He has been opposing our efforts to start a burial ground for Muslims in Margao (South Goa’s district head quarters), but Reginaldo has been leading in opposing it. He has gone on record saying he will not allow the burial ground to happen,” Carol said.
Reginaldo has admitted to the opposition, but claims he will talk to all the disgruntled elements.
“My appeal to everyone is to forget everything and start new. Let us work to ensure that communal forces do not win in Goa,” Reginaldo said.
The real opposition, however, ahead of Reginaldo is in the form of Narendra Sawaikar, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed BJP candidate.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)