Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh is under fire for allegedly mishandling Goa, where the party snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
The Congress emerged as the single largest party with 17 seats in the 40-member assembly when results were declared on March 11.
But, it was the BJP with 13 legislators that formed the government, as it moved quickly to secure the support of the Goa Forward, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Independents in a hung House.
“I don’t know whether Digvijaya really wanted to form the Congress government in Goa. Looking at his actions, it did not seem like he did,” said Vishwajit Rane, who quit the Congress and the Goa assembly on Thursday.
The sentiments were echoed by senior Congress leaders. Rajya Sabha member Renuka Choudhary demanded Singh be removed. “How we lost Goa was stupid,” she said.
The 70-year-old Singh brushed aside the accusation and accused governor Mridula Sinha of “acting against the Constitution” by not inviting the single largest party to form the government.
“There was no delay in electing a leader in Goa. By 3.30pm (on March 12), we had decided on our leader and were trying to contact Vijay Sardesai (of Goa Forward), who had promised support to us at midnight (March 11),” Singh said on Friday.
Sardesai set some conditions that were accepted and he even spoke to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Singh said.
They tried to get in touch with Sardesai after the Congress legislature party leader was elected but “by that time, he had had dealings with Nitin Gadkari”, Singh told media at Parliament.
The Congress’ Goa chief narrated a different version.
Singh insisted there was no need to write to the governor as she would call the Congress first, Luizinho Faleiro said in Panaji.
Another blunder was to not insist on letters of support from potential partners on the night of March 11, he said.
“If MGP and Goa Forward can give letters of support to the BJP..., the same night, a letter could have been given to us after speaking to our vice-president,” Faleiro said.
Another MLA, Jenniffer Monserrate, said they had no idea what was happening behind closed doors.
“Nobody was interested in communicating with the members the course of the party. It’s shameful we lost despite being so close to majority,” he said.
Singh, however, accused party colleagues of sabotaging the alliance with the Goa Forward. “Goa Forward won 3 out of 4 they contested. Had our alliance with Goa Forward gone through we would have been 22. Still Digvijaya Guilty? I leave it to you to judge,” he tweeted.
Goa Forward won 3 out of 4 they contested. Had our alliance with Goa Forward gone through we would have been 22.— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) March 17, 2017
Still Digvijaya Guilty? I leave it to you to judge.— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) March 17, 2017
This is not the first time that his handling of state units has been criticised.
He was blamed for the drubbing in the 2012 Uttar Pradesh election, bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and the rout the party faced in the state polls in 2014.
In Karnataka, due for polls in March 2018, a rebellion is brewing in the ruling Congress that could help the BJP. Many MLAs have complained about Singh and want him divested of the state’s charge.
“Digvijaya should now take retirement from politics,” an angry Rane said.