Four join Cong to topple BJP

| 13 December 2000 23:14 IST

Four former ministers, belonging to former chief minister Francisco Sardinha's Goan People's Congress Party, split last night in a bid to join the Congress.

Though this is yet another split among the long series taking place in a tiny tourist state, the sudden development is being viewed as a major step towards the ongoing attempts to destabilise the one and a half month-old Bharatiya Janata Party government.

With former minister Somnath Zuwarkar as its leader, Subhash Shirodkar, Victoria Fernandes and Francisco Silveira - all former ministers - submitted a letter to speaker Pratapsing Rane last night, forming a separate group - the GPCP (Zuwarkar).

Admitting that all four would be readmitted into the Congress shortly, Congress spokesman Jitendra Deshprabhu also said it could be seen as an indication that polarisation of 'secular-minded' persons has begun under the banner of the Congress.

All four of them, along with seven others, had split from the then ruling Congress in last November under Sardinha's leadership, forming a coalition government with the BJP.

The government however collapsed within 11 months as eight more MLAs from the Congress and two from Sardinha's GPCP split and joined the BJP to form yet another new government. It also increased strength of the saffron party to 20.

As changing parties has become a routine in Goan politics, this is the tenth split recorded in the state here since the existing Assembly was constituted in June last year. The number of defectors has also now reached to 35 in the 40-member House.

While 17 legislators are still left with no defection recorded in their name at least in this Assembly, 20 among the defectors have made a record of splitting more than once.

Besides Francisco D'Souza, now the BJP MLA after defecting five times in 18 months, there are four legislators who have split thrice while 15 have split at least twice since they are elected MLAs this time.

The 'rich' tradition of defections has otherwise begun in the state since 1990, which has made Goa the most unstable state in the country with 13 chief ministers and two brief spells of President's rule and one premature dissolution of the Assembly.

It began once again in the ninth Assembly in spite of the Congress being given clear mandate to rule. While former chief minister Luizinho Faleiro engineered defections in three parties to increase party's strength to 26, the subsequent six splits reduced the Congress to mere six, including the speaker.

"But people have realised that it is nothing but the Congress", states Deshprabhu while welcoming the four lost colleagues back home. He also does not deny the possibility of more 'secular-minded' persons joining the party, 'in order to keep the communal forces out of power'.

While this development has helped Faleiro to snatch the position of the opposition leader from Sardinha (his party is now reduced to mere three), political activity has suddenly gained momentum towards toppling the BJP government.

Plans are afoot to woo at least seven to eight of their colleagues from the BJP while Faleiro confirms that some more persons who had left the party have also approached the high command for homecoming.

Meanwhile, speculations are on with speaker Rane, who was indirectly supporting the BJP all this time, rushing to Delhi to meet the Congress high command. He is presently sitting upon disqualification petitions filed against six BJP ministers who are formerly Congressmen.

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