PANJIM: The final selection of Congress candidates by the Central election committee, led to an open and ugly attempt by Digambar Kamat and Pratapsingh Rane to stake everything to push for an alliance with Goa Forward, the NCP and Babush Monserrate, against the overwhelming decision of the Congress blocks to contest these elections alone.
A belligerent GPCC President Luizinho Faleiro held firm that the Congress should contest the polls alone with very minor adjustments, and even sent a clear signal that he was willing to go to any extent to ensure that according to him, “the wishes of the workers and cadre are respected”. Seeing Faleiro’s stand, which was backed by AICC secretary in-charge of Goa Dr A.Chella Kumar and the Central Election Committee members KC Venugopal, Deepak Babaria and Bhakta Charan Das, the issue went up to both Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, when it was decided to form a three-member committee to explore the possibility of an alliance with the NCP, Babush Monserrate and Goa Forward “on Congress" terms.
A senior AICC member who was present during a series of meetings said “We in Delhi wanted the Congress to go it alone because these are the wishes of the people. A section of leaders in Goa are hell bent on an alliance. There is no decision and that’s why the three-member committee will talk. But this alliance will be on Congress terms, and not according to the terms of any of the other parties.”
This decision was reached at the end of close to ten hours of negotiations and aimed mainly at keeping the pro-alliance lobby, which had a new leader in AICC general secretary in-charge of Goa, Digvijay Singh at bay. The CEC, according to sources, has also managed to clear the names of its candidates in about 25 seats.
It was a day of long knives which began at 11 in the morning with Digambar Kamat and Pratapsingh Rane meeting A Chella Kumar, who told them not to pursue the alliance line with anybody and not even think of minor seat adjustments. Post that meeting Digambar Kamat and then Mr Rane headed separately to 10 Janpath to meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi, while Mr Chella Kumar and Digvijay Singh joined GPCC president Luizinho Faleiro and member of the Central election Committee to start the process of clearing seats, at the Congress war room at 15, Gurudwara Rakabgunj Road.
It is learnt that during Mr Rane’s meeting with Mrs Gandhi, the senior Goa leader even said that he would stay away from these elections if an alliance was not done
Meanwhile at a meeting with CEC leaders, Mr Faleiro stated that the party should hold firm and go to the people with a clear sign that the rebuilding of the organisation was the main aim. Mr Faleiro soon left the meeting and headed to 10 Janpath to convey the same message to party President Sonia Gandhi.
In the early evening a formal meeting of the CEC started and this is where there were the first signs that the Congress leadership was beginning to buckle and look at a limited alliance even as Digambar Kamat was pushing for four seats for Goa Forward. Kamat then started calling the different party leaders in Goa telling them that an alliance was agreed upon. This lead to different WhatsApp groups and a section of the digital news media going on an overdrive “announcing" that the Congress had decided to ally with GF and NCP.
At this stage A Chella Kumar and the CEC leaders stepped in again and said that the views of party observers who have sent in ground reports and the sentiments of various groups, that “Congress should not dilute its equity”, cannot be ignored. It was only late at night that a compromise formula was arrived, a formula that comes naturally to the Congress, to get out of all situations, for a Committee to discuss details of seat adjustments with NCP, GF and UG (Babush). “The last word is that there is no final word” is how one articulate AICC secretary who did not wish to be named, put it.