Another setback for the Congress in Goa

Updated on Sep 14, 2022 09:09 PM IST

The party has blamed the BJP’s political and financial muscle and accused the ruling party of using federal agencies as tools of intimidation, but its continued vulnerability will lower its stock at a time of intense jostling in the national Opposition space

The defections are an embarrassment for the Congress which finds itself unable to defend its stables in the state for the second time in three years, despite having made each lawmaker take a public oath not to desert the party ahead of the assembly elections earlier this year. (AP) PREMIUM
The defections are an embarrassment for the Congress which finds itself unable to defend its stables in the state for the second time in three years, despite having made each lawmaker take a public oath not to desert the party ahead of the assembly elections earlier this year. (AP)
ByHT Editorial

Eight Congress lawmakers joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a blow to the Opposition party in Goa on Wednesday. The shock exit of the leaders – which is more than two-thirds of the party’s strength in the state assembly, thereby not attracting disqualification proceedings under the anti-defection law – is more damaging for two reasons. One, with the loss of former chief minister Digambar Kamat and leader of the Opposition Michael Lobo, the Congress finds its top leadership in the state nearly decimated. Two, the defections show that despite murmurings of trouble in July this year and the appointment of a trouble-shooter, the party was unable to forestall the defections and found itself politically outmanoeuvred by the BJP. It also hasn’t missed anyone’s attention that the defections have happened against the backdrop of the party’s biggest public outreach effort in years, the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

The immediate consequences are clear. The defections are an embarrassment for the Congress which finds itself unable to defend its stables in the state for the second time in three years, despite having made each lawmaker take a public oath not to desert the party ahead of the assembly elections earlier this year. The party has blamed the BJP’s political and financial muscle and accused the ruling party of using federal agencies as tools of intimidation, but its continued vulnerability will lower its stock at a time of intense jostling in the national Opposition space.

But beyond party politics, the defections also point to a curious trend in Goa’s electoral landscape. In the last term of the assembly, nearly two-thirds of the lawmakers switched sides – an unprecedented number in Indian politics. The continued spate of defections indicates that there is no major electoral penalty to defections in the state; voters tend to not judge lawmakers harshly for abandoning ideologies or party folds; and that local fiefs and spheres of influence hold more importance in the state’s politics. This kind of a transactional relationship between voters and their representatives is a challenge to not only the anti-defection law (which premises itself on prioritising the party over the lawmaker) but also electoral politics itself.

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