Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh has come under severe criticism of its own party leaders in Goa after it failed to form government in Goa despite emerging as the single largest party by winning 17 of the 40 Assembly seats.
The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) successfully formed government in the coastal state today with Manohar Parrikar taking oath of office in a ceremony in Panaji today evening.
Congress leaders, including party's chief whip in the Rajya Sabha Satyavrat Chaturvedi, today criticised the delay in garnering support from other MLAs in Goa where it lost out to BJP in the race to form government.
The just-concluded elections in Goa saw the BJP (13 seats) ending up behind the Congress (17 seats) which emerged as the single largest party in the state. After some behind-the-scenes negotiations, the BJP managed to submit a list of 21 MLAs that included three each from Goa Forward Party and MGP and two independents.
Prominent Congress leaders in the state are angry that the party did not act fast enough to negotiate support from smaller parties and stake claim despite finishing with the highest numbers.
One of the most vical critiques of the manner in which the opportunity was allowed to slip out of the party’s hands has been Vishwajit P Rane, Congress MLA and the leader of opposition in the outgoing Goa assembly who many believed was in the running for the chief minister's job.
In an unequivocal critique, the leader said that the “party lost the opportunity because of the foolishness of our leaders”.
He had stormed out of a Congress legislature meeting and has hinted that was contemplating over quitting the party.
"A lot of thoughts are coming in my mind. Sometimes I just feel that I am in the wrong party," Rane told a news channel, adding that he felt that there was “total mismanagement by the leadership”.
Digivjay, who was overseeing the party’s bid to power post the results, has come in for severe flak from other party legislators including Jennifer Monserrate, who have been left wishing that he had acted as swiftly and efficiently as Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, the BJP’s point person for the state.
Gadkari had overseen BJP’s legislature meet that named Manohar Parrikar as their leader after the BJP former ally, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party or MGP, promised support of its three legislators on the condition that Mr Parrikar heads the government.
In his defence, Digvijaya Singh on Tuesday alleged that Goa Governor Mridula Sinha did not invite it to form government in the state despite the party giving her a letter on Sunday seeking appointment to stake the claim.
"We wanted to stake the claim on March 12 itself. We had given her the letter on that day itself but still she (Governor) did not give us an appointment," AICC General Secretary Digvijaya Singh told reporters here, after chairing a meeting of the Goa Congress Legislature Party.
"Despite established principle and constitution, the Governor did not call us to form government but gave a chance to the second largest party (BJP)," Singh alleged.
Senior Congress leaders have also demanded that accountability be fixed for not being able to form the government after the party squandered the opportunity to return to power in the coastal state.
Asserting that the party knew that it did not have a clear majority and therefore, it has to to garner support from other political parties or may be Independents, Chaturvedi said, "This exercise should have been conducted well in time."
Another Congress leader and former union minister Renuka Chowdhury said the mandate was given to the party and it was natural for its MLAs to feel bitter about not being able to form the government. "Accountability should be fixed and heads should roll for Goa as well as for other states," she added.
However, Chaturvedi maintained that the final verdict will be after the floor test in the Goa assembly. "That will decide one's majority, not the Governor's House," Chaturvedi told reporters outside Parliament.
While the Congress moved the Supreme Court in a bid to stop Manohar Parrikar from taking oath as Goa Chief Minister on Tuesday evening, the petition was rejected on grounds that the party neither furnished a list of MLAs it claimed to have support of in its petition nor did it make any representations in this regard to the Governor.
The SC has now directed that the floor test be conducted on March 16 at 11 am instead of the earlier stipulated period of 15 days.
The apex court, while hearing on the Congress’ petition today questioned why it had failed to inform the Governor of the support of parties that the BJP claimed were on its side.
“Where were you (Congress) when Manohar Parrikar claimed the support of other parties? Why didn’t you inform the Governor that these parties were supporting you and not the BJP?” the three judge banch headed by the CJI Justice JS Khehar asked.