With the allegations of illegal mining against his government mounting, Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat has been pushing for early assembly elections in the state "in an attempt to divert the attention from the scam", Congress sources said on Friday.
Sources said Kamat, during his recent meetings with central leaders in Delhi, had argued that "advancing the assembly elections by few months will help the party in regaining the power in the state as it was better placed as of now".
He also contended that since BJP leader Rajesh Patnekar had recently resigned from the assembly to join the Congress, the by-poll to that seat has to be held within six months and "it would be prudent to hold the state elections in February".
The elections otherwise are scheduled to be held in June 2012 while Patnekar will formally join the Congress on September 30.
But there are few takers for Kamat's proposal. "The high command is not in favour of early elections. If polls are held now, we will be wiped out," a Congress leader said. "The perception that Congress ministers are involved in the mining scam will hurt us in the elections."
According to rough estimates, the illegal mining in Goa is pegged between R1,200 crore and R10,000 crore.
The Congress Legislature Party (CLP), in its meeting at Panaji on Thursday, had also decided not to hold the elections before schedule but allow the Congress-NCP coalition government to complete its tenure.
The move surprised many as a few weeks ago the CLP had passed a resolution, calling for early elections in the state.
With Kamat under severe attack from the opposition over the illegal mining, the Congress leadership is milling various options to contain the damage. "One of the options is to go for a leadership change and fight the assembly elections under a person with a clean image," a party functionary said.
Sources said the central leadership is discussing some names, including former CM Pratap Singh Rane, former deputy CM Dayanand Narvekar and deputy speaker Mauvin Godinho, as likely replacements.