Cong divided over readmitting defectors

| 12 March 2001 22:45 IST

The young turks in the opposition Congress are up in arms against the ongoing political game of defections and then readmitting the defectors while the party high command is seized of the matter of readmitting three more defectors, including one former chief minister of Goa.

A demand of readmitting three defectors belonging to the Goan Peoples' Congress - former CM Francisco Sardinha, former Deputy CM Dayanand Narvekar and former minister Mauvin Godinho - is presently pending before AICC president Sonia Gandhi.

While the Goa PCC is vertically divided over the demand, the opposition party has already readmitted five other former ministers belonging to the GPC, who had split the ruling Congress in November 1999 to form a coalition government with the then 10-member opposition BJP.

The BJP, led by chief minister Manohar Parrikar, is presently ruling the tourist state since October last year after admitting eight members directly from the Congress and two from the GPC led by Sardinha. Altogether 20 Congressmen out of 26 have defected till date while five of them have been readmitted.

"None of these defectors should be given any office of profit at least for one year", opines Randeep Singh Surjeewala, the All India Youth Congress president, who was down in Goa attending a training camp which also deliberated upon the 'Curse of defections : new perspective, changes and challenges'.

Though he did not announce it publicly for the best reasons known to him, the young Congress activists gathered at the training camp were unanimous that no defector should be admitted any more in the party while those admitted should also not be given tickets for the next elections.

Shantaram Naik, the former Goa PCC president, in fact appealed to the AIYC to take up the issue with the high command to move necessary amendments in the anti-defection act which would make any party legally helpless in readmitting any defector.

Goa has witnessed not less than 28 splits in last 37 years since the first Assembly was elected in 1963 where 122 MLAs defected out of total 300 elected till date. The frequency increased from 1990 with 13 chief ministers heading jumbo cabinets in 10 years while only three chief ministers ruled the state for the earlier 27 years.

Activists at the camp felt that the Congress should begin afresh by continuing sitting in the opposition rather than readmitting the defectors. Anil Shastri, the high command observer who was down in Goa early this month to ascertain views on readmission of defectors, however said that the Congress would definitely come back to power. It is obviously not possible without readmitting the defectors including those who are in the ruling BJP.

Surjeewala, though demanded amendments to the anti-defection act, also admits that he would not be able to do anything if the 'high command' decides to readmit the defectors. He has demanded that the Governor, based on a report by the election commission, should decide on disqualification petitions rather than the speaker.

He has also suggested amendments like deciding any case of defection, split or merger within six months and barring any defector to hold office of profit at least for one year after he splits, defects or gets readmitted in the original party.

Meanwhile, Dr Wilfred de Souza, the sole NCP legislator, has demanded that speaker Pratapsing Rane should dispose of disqualification petitions he has field against six BJP members, including four ministers, who had split from the Congress as well as the GPC in October.

If decided negatively, the 20-member BJP would immediately be thrown into minority in the 40-member House, providing ample opportunity for the Congress to form the government. But the opposition Congress is still undecided over the issue of 'homecoming' of the defectors, due to infighting within the opposition camp.

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