Panaji: Overshadowed in the AAP versus SAD-BJP fight in Punjab and facing defections in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is also facing travails in Goa with an emerging divide between the party’s veteran leaders and younger lawmakers.
Even direct intervention by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, whose leadership has already been criticised by former UP Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi after she moved over to the Bharatiya Janata Party, appears to have had no bearing on the simmering dissent in the Goa unit.
State Congress president Luizinho Faleiro, whose leadership since 2014, has been repeatedly questioned by his own legislators, has tried to crack the whip to get his flock in order on many occasions.
On Monday, he summed the advice of Gandhi to Congressmen in Goa as it being “time to perform or perish”.
“This is Rahulji’s direction to all of us. The Congress will have to fight this election unitedly. We have to take the message of our leader to our masses in unison, in one voice,” Faleiro had told IANS.
But he will really have to hard-sell his message, given the fact that varying degrees of discontent among his own legislators.
Chief among the critics is the party’s Curtorim legislator Aleixo Reginaldo, who in a letter to Gandhi, has said that the party needs to encourage young leaders.
“What I have told Rahul ji, is that he has an option of choosing between a new chain of stores and old grainy unattractive stores. The party stand no chance if the old leaders, who have become synonymous with corruption are backed during elections,” Reginaldo told IANS.
The ire of Congressmen like Reginaldo and others, is against the sudden re-emergence of veteran Congress leaders, some of whom are being probed on corruption charges, in party activities ahead of the upcoming polls.
Bringing the veteran leaders back in the party fold, has been a priority with Faleiro, who incidentally has also said on numerous occasions that the Congress will back young blood, during the ticket allotment process.
Unfortunately, not many legislators are willing to buy his assurances.
Congress legislator Pandurang Madkaikar, who represents Cumbharjua constituency, has already made overtures to the BJP, citing disenchantment with the leadership and political opportunism by the veteran leaders.
“We want the party to field new faces for the elections. If the party continues to be in the grip of the old leaders, we will be wiped out,” he said.
For a small state, the dilemma before the Congress is presence of a bunch of chief ministerial candidates in its ranks. While Faleiro himself is a former chief minister, there are also Digambar Kamat, linked to the illegal mining scam and the Louis Berger scam, Ravi Naik, linked to drug trade in Goa by a legislative committee report, Francisco Sardinha and Pratapsingh Rane.
But there are other Congress legislators like Valpoi lawmaker Vishwajit Rane, who has openly expressed dissent at Faleiro’s leadership, but now chooses to ignore the inner-party wrangling to focus on Valpoi and Poriem – the constituencies represented by him and his father Pratapsingh Rane.
Goa is expected to go to polls, along with Punjab and Uttar Pradesh early next year.