The TMC and AAP are “fracturing” the non-BJP vote in Goa, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said on Sunday and asserted that only his party has the capacity to defeat the BJP.

Chidambaram, who is the Congress’ senior election observer for the Goa Assembly polls, also said that loyalty to the party and the electorate is the first criterion for selecting candidates for the elections and expressed confidence that when elected, they will remain loyal to both the party as well as the electorate.

His remarks come days after the party’s state working president, Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco, resigned as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, reducing the party’s strength to two in the 40-member House. Lourenco has joined the TMC.

Earlier this month, former Goa chief minister Ravi Naik resigned as Congress MLA. A few months back, ex-CM Luizinho Faleiro had also quit the Congress and joined the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

In an interview with PTI, Chidambaram said the only party that has deep roots in all the 40 constituencies of Goa is the Congress and the people know that it is only the Congress that has the capacity to defeat the BJP despite the latter’s “money power and misuse of state power”.

Asked about the recent resignations from the Congress with some quitting to join the TMC, including Lourenco, and the Mamata Banerjee-led outfit adopting an aggressive pitch in the state, Chidambaram said it is not for him to comment on the motive or strategy of any party, and stressed that only two Congress MLAs have joined the TMC.

“Ninety nine per cent of Congress workers remain with the Congress. I am not unhappy that Mr Reginaldo Lourenco defected to the TMC. The TMC has taken a losing candidate from our hands and, if it fields him in the election, he will remain a losing candidate,” the former Union minister said.

The Congress workers and the voters of Curtorim constituency are determined to defeat Lourenco, Chidambaram said.

Asked whether he believes that the TMC is helping the BJP and the Mamata Banerjee-led party along with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) were acting as the BJP’s B-teams, Chidambaram said, “I do not comment on the motives of any party. In a straight fight between the BJP and the Congress in 2022, the Congress will emerge as a clear winner.”

“The TMC and AAP are fracturing the non-BJP vote. Whether that will benefit the BJP, I cannot say,” he said.

On whether the Congress would announce a chief ministerial face ahead of polls, Chidambaram pointed out that he has said that after all the Congress candidates are announced, in consultation with them, “we will take a call whether it is desirable to announce a CM candidate before the election”.

That option is open, he added.

Talking about the poll preparations and the Congress’ standing in Goa, he said the Congress’ slide took place in 2017 and 2019 when its elected MLAs defected to the BJP.

The BJP government in Goa is a government “of defectors, by defectors and for defectors”, Chidambaram alleged.

“There is an overwhelming desire for change. The only party that has deep roots in all the 40 constituencies of Goa is the Congress. The people know that it is only the Congress that has the capacity to defeat the BJP despite the latter’s money power and misuse of state power. We hope to do well in the 2022 elections,” Chidambaram said.

Asked about the possibility of an exodus of party’s elected leaders following the elections, he said, “Nothing of that sort will happen. We have placed the responsibility of suggesting names of potential candidates on the Block Congress Committees and the Block workers. We have asked them to recommend names based on loyalty, integrity, acceptability to the Congress workers and winnability among the electorate.”

Loyalty to the party and the electorate is the first criterion, Chidambaram asserted.

“We will pick a candidate from among the names suggested by the Block Congress Committee of the constituency. We are confident that our candidates, when elected, will remain loyal to the party and the electorate,” he said.

On the possibility of alliances, Chidambaram said, “I have found that, in Goa, it is a practice among political parties to talk to each other right up to the elections – and even after the elections!”

“Our Goa PCC leaders have responded to suggestions for talks from other parties including the Goa Forward Party. There are opportunities, risks and bumps. The AICC leadership will take the final decisions,” he said.

The Congress had released its first list of eight candidates for the upcoming assembly elections in Goa last week, fielding former chief minister Digamber Kamat from the Margao constituency.

The Congress this week also named Pratapsingh Rane, 82, as the party’s candidate from Goa’s Poriem assembly seat.

In the 2017 Goa Assembly elections, the Congress had won 17 seats in the House and emerged as the single largest party. But, the BJP, which had bagged 13 seats, quickly tied-up with some regional parties and independents to form the government in the state.

Lourenco’s resignation as Member of the Legislative Assembly on Monday, reduced the party’s strength to two in the 40-member House after a series of resignations over the last few years by the party’s legislators.

The AAP had contested the last assembly polls but failed to win a seat. The TMC has entered the poll fray in Goa and has tied-up with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party.



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