Loyal Congmen threaten to boycott polls

SANDESH PRABHUDESAI, PANAJI | 04 October 2000 22:57 IST

The organisational crisis within the Congress here has deepened further with most of the party loyalists threatening to boycott the already-postponed organisational polls while the ruling group accusing them of supporting the ruling coalition of rebel Congressmen and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Resignations and sackings have become order of the day here with Sulochana Katkar, member of the pradesh election authority and former PCC president, resigning in protest of PCC chief Luizinho Faleiro's alleged autocratic functioning in the election process.

Ravi Naik, the opposition leader, on the other hand, has sacked CLP spokesman Jitendra Deshprabhu, who is supposedly close to Faleiro. While citing the prime reason for his sacking, Deshprabhu however claims that he was pressurised not to criticise the BJP which he declined to do.

At least 10 senior Congressmen, including Naik, senior vice president Churchill Alemao, former party presidents Shantaram Naik and Katkar as well as three general secretaries and some MLAs have even complained to party president Sonia Gandhi about Faleiro's direct interference in the election process.

In spite of party observer R L Bhatia, followed by Goa in-charge Prabha Rao as well as Anand Shetty flying down to Goa to listen to their grievances, their demand to replace Faleiro before beginning the poll process is not yet met with.

"We will not allow any election – block or above levels – to take place under any circumstances until Faleiro heads the organisation", said one senior office bearer. The election process with block level was supposed to begin on 7 September.

Faleiro is charged with not publishing membership rolls in time and appointing his cronies as the block and district returning officers without consulting the district and pradesh committees, in violation of election rules. Some of them even doubt the role of pradesh returning officer Blasius D'Souza, appointed centrally.

After toppling the Faleiro government in November last year with present chief minister Francisco Sardinha staging a revolt along with 10 other partymen and forming a coalition with the BJP, five more Congressmen split on 15 August . All of them cited Faleiro's dictatorial attitude as the prime reason to quit.

Refuting all the allegations, Faleiro has however held two general secretaries – Keshav Prabhu and Urmila Lotlikar – responsible for the confusion over membership rolls. Both of them have however expressed shock and dismay over Faleiro's statement, claiming that it is totally false.

Naik, the opposition leader, feels that such a conflict would affect the party prospects further. "If any leader cannot keep the people together, then he should simply own the responsibility and quit", he says.

The Congress, which had been ruling the state since 1980 and widened the party base by engineered defections continuously within all the opposition parties till recently, it is in a real pathetic condition today with 16 members quitting the party twice within a year, reducing it down to a nine-member opposition in the 40-member House.

While still some more MLAs are threatening to quit, Deshprabhu has alleged that the opposition leader and his group is singing at the tunes of Sardinha, the chief minister. The dissidents however claim that their concern is to save the party from detractors like the Faleiros.

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