Goa minister, another MLA quit BJP

The departure comes a month before the assembly elections are scheduled to be held on February 14 and is the latest in a series of defections from the BJP
Lobo said the BJP has become so big that it no longer values the contribution of grassroots workers. (HT Photo/File)
Lobo said the BJP has become so big that it no longer values the contribution of grassroots workers. (HT Photo/File)
Updated on Jan 10, 2022 11:43 PM IST
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ByGerard de Souza

PANAJI: Goa minister Michael Lobo and lawmaker Pravin Zantye on Monday quit the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday, taking to four the number of legislators from the party to have quit since December 17 even as the state head into assembly polls on February 14.

Lobo, who is expected to join the Congress, said he was upset with the functioning of the party, especially the manner in which the grassroots-level workers are treated.

A vocal member of chief minister Pramod Sawant’s cabinet, Lobo is the third Christian lawmaker after Alina Saldanha and Carlos Almeida to have left the BJP citing changes in the party’s functioning following former chief minister Manohar Parrikar’s death in 2019. Christians account for a little over 25% of the state’s population.

Lobo’s departure also indicates unease among the BJP’s Christian MLAs especially in the light of attacks on Christians in neighbouring Karnataka that has not gone unnoticed among the state’s minority population. Clergymen have referred to the attacks that took place over Christmas during religious gatherings in Goa.

Lobo said the BJP no longer values the contribution of grassroots workers. “Many came to me to complain. There will be ups and downs in a party but there cannot be a `lock, stock, and barrel ‘ replacement of workers,” Lobo said. “I have been saying this for a long time but nobody was willing to listen. I felt we were sidelined.”

Lobo said he is in talks with other political parties but yet to take a decision on his future plans.

Lobo’s resignation came a day after Congress leader Digambar Kamat said the former was in touch with the party leadership induction into the party.

State BJP chief Sadanand Shet Tanavade said Lobo’s departure would not make any difference to the party. “All this time he was only physically present in the party. We considered him as having left. We did not dismiss him out of deference to his long contribution to the party.”

Jatin Naik, a political analyst, said Lobo’s departure will weaken the BJP in the politically-significant Bardez taluka, which sends seven lawmakers to the 40-member state assembly. “The BJP is on the back foot and with this development, the party’s ability to win a simple majority on its own is significantly diminished.”

Lobo, who represented the Calangute constituency, plans to field his wife from the neighbouring Siolim constituency.

Zantye, a cashew nut baron who represented the Maem constituency, is the son of Harish Zantye, a Congress Member of Parliament from North Goa from 1991 to 1996. He quit Congress after he was denied a ticket for the 2012 assembly polls and joined the BJP ahead of the 2017 elections.

Zantye said he joined the BJP based on the assurances of Parrikar and that the party is not the same today. He blamed the government’s failure to restart mining and providing jobs in his constituency for his exit. “I will be joining the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP),” he added.

The Congress emerged as the single-largest party in the state in 2017 with 17 seats in the 40-member assembly. But it was unable to form the government. The BJP, which won 13 seats, managed to form the government in with the MGP, the Goa Forward Party (GFP), and two independents. In 2019, 10 Congress lawmakers defected and gave the BJP a comfortable majority in the assembly.

MGP has since quit the BJP-led alliance and has tied up with the Trinamool Congress. The GFP is now a Congress ally. And 26 of the 40 legislators elected in 2017 are no longer with the party on whose ticket they contested that election.

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Sunday, May 22, 2022