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Will battered Congress be banished in Goa?

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Panaji, May 21 (IANS): Battered and reduced to an unprecedented single digit following the BJP’s thumping win in the 2012 assembly elections, the Congress perhaps believed it could not get any worse. it was wrong.

Outmanoeuvred by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and done in by egotistical battles within the party, the Congress in Goa now stands on the verge of being banished into political oblivion, at least in the short term, after failing to win either of the two Lok Sabha seats.

The Congress, the main opposition party with nine lawmakers in the 40-member state assembly, has been one of the meekest opponents of the BJP-led government and perhaps preferred to expend most of its energies on fighting its own ahead of the April 12 Lok Sabha battle and after.

Former chief minister Churchill Alemao squabbled with the leadership and rebelled to join the Trinamool Congress and contest against the party’s South Goa candidate Aleixo Reginald, pulling off nearly 12,000 votes.

Outgoing MP Francisco Sardinia sulked after he was denied the ticket. He did not quit the party but that did not stop his son from contesting and hiving off 2,586 votes, which mattered in the relatively close contest.

The running feud with another party legislator, Mauvin Godinho, also from South Goa, contributed to the loss of the ‘safe’ seat, which is also referred to as the “Amethi of Goa”.

The story wasn’t too dissimilar in North Goa where several Congress legislators sponsored a half-hour cable news segment only to criticise the new leadership of the party.

Even Ravi Naik, who contested the North Goa seat, complained of non-cooperation by senior party leaders.

The man who inspired the dissent was none other than newly elected state Congress president John Fernandes, handpicked by Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, after the 2012 debacle.

After taking over as president in January 2014, John Fernandes’ assault on veteran, tainted Congressmen and impetus to fresh blood may pay off in the long term but has clearly ravaged the party in the current poll.

A no-nonsense man often to the point of being rude, Fernandes’ blunt style has generated chronic discontent amongst the party’s senior leaders, but has inspired a spark of hope in the younger lot.

“He is a man who will destroy the party. I do not want to be in a party where someone with my record is not treated with respect,” claims Godinho, a former minister who has been accused of a power tariff scam in the mid-90s. The case is pending in the Supreme Court.

Godinho’s threats have fallen on deaf Congress ears. Its spokesperson Durgadas Kamat responded publicly to Godinho’s threats by promising to “let Godinho rot within the party”.

Kamat admits that the party is not looking at short term gains under the new leadership.

“The new state committee did not get much time to prepare. John had taken over only in January. We are giving utmost importance to discipline and youth. It will take time, but it is a policy which will pay off in the long run,” Durgadas Kamat told IANS, blaming earlier committees for not putting in an effort.

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