Cong wins, yet loses

SANDESH PRABHUDESAI, PANAJI | 06 March 1998 21:08 IST

The ruling Congress party is in a deep trouble in Goa, with its large chunk of votes going to the Bharatiya Janata Party and Churchill Alemao’s United Goans Democratic Party.

Obviously, keeping up its tradition, the ruling party leadership has turned its guns against the dissidents, led by deputy chief minister Dr Wilfred de Souza.

Demanding action against him, GPCC chief Shantaram Naik and chief minister Pratapsing Rane have already made one trip to Delhi, along with both the victorious candidates.

They were lucky to win both the seats, but with a slander margin - 417 in North Goa and 7800 in South Goa - against the BJP.

As usual, de Souza dismisses the allegation of anti-party activity. On the contrary, he proposes to bring the UGDP near the Congress, either in the form of alliance or merger.

"Our preliminary reports indicate that some persons in the government have worked against the party", alleges the GPCC chief. Francisco Sardinha, the South Goa MP-elect, however claims he did not come across any such activity, though Ravi Naik, elected from North Goa, supports his party chief.

In an attempt to counter the attack, the rebel leader blames the party leadership for neglecting Catholic minorities in the state who, he claims, voted for the UGDP this time.

But the allegation made by party leaders seems visible in de Souza’s Saligao Assembly segment. The UGDP scored the highest number of 3501 votes here, the MGP in the second position with 3195 votes whereas the Congress being pushed down to the third rank.

"My Saligao voters supported the UGDP in protest of the Congress candidate and the chief minister", claims de Souza, while also asserting that it is basically the MGP stronghold.

In justification, he recalls how he was dislodged as the chief minister by Ravi Naik on the auspicious Good Friday in ’94 and the recent case of conservator of forests Richard D’Souza, a Saligao resident, whose transfer to Goa was opposed by Rane.

Unlike his local party chief, Rane however seems to be playing safe on the issue of dropping such elements from his cabinet. "It depends on the extent of which they were involved in the anti-party activity", he states.

De Souza, the self-styled Catholic leader, seems not worried about it. "Let the party high command decide whether the party needs me or those leaders who have consistently hurt sentiments of the minorities here".

As soon as the political dust in Delhi settles down and the government comes to power, he is planning to make a Delhi trip, to get back his "political disciple" Alemao back into the party fold.

His calculations are simple. While the UGDP polled almost 25 per cent votes in both the constituencies, the Congress figures could have shot up to 57 per cent, if there was electoral understanding with Alemao. The BJP however scored only 30 per cent.

But Radharao Gracias, the UGDP spokesman, disagrees. According to him, they have polled equal number of votes from the Hindu community and not on religious lines like de Souza is trying to project it.

Rather than going anywhere near the national party, a group within the UGDP is presently trying hard to strengthen the regional forces by bringing all the regional outfits together as one unified force. But de Souza group seems confident of Alemao joining the Congress.

The UGDP strongman is presently under heavy pressure from anti-Congress leaders like Gracias not to join back the ruling party, which had brought him into active politics a decade ago. Confused Alemao is presently sitting with his fingers crossed over the issue.

"To revive the Congress, we have to fight the BJP, and not the UGDP", says de Souza. But the party leaders here feel that they have to successfully fight the dissidence within the party before fighting anybody outside. 

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