With the allegations of illegal mining against his government mounting, Goa chief minister Digam-bar Kamat has been pushing hard for early assembly elections in the state "in an attempt to divert the attention from the scam", Congress sources said on Friday.
The elections have to be held by June 2012, but Kamat is apparently wants them advanced by a few months.
The sources said Kamat, during his recent meetings with central leaders in Delhi, had argued that "advancing the assembly elections by a few months will help the party in retaining 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 "to avoid that it would be prudent to hold the state elections in February".
But there are few takers to Kamat's proposal - both at the central level and in the state. "The high command is not in favour of early elections. If elections are held now, we will be wiped out," a senior Congress leader said. "The perception that Congress ministers are involved in the mining scam will hurt us in the elections."
The Congress Legislature Party (CLP), at its meeting in Panaji on Thursday, had also decided not to advance the elections but to 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 illegal mining, the Congress leadership is mulling various options to contain the damage. "One of the options is to go in for a leadership change and fight the assembly elections under a person with a clean image," a party functionary said.
Sources said the former chief minister, Pratap Singh Rane; the former deputy chief minister, Dayanand Narvekar; and the deputy speaker, Mauvin Godinho, are among those considered likely replacements.
It remains to be seen if the Congress high command will effect the change before the Assembly sitting scheduled for October 5 and 7. October 6 is a holiday for Dussehra.