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Goa minister Lobo, another MLA quit BJP


The departure comes a month before the assembly elections are scheduled to be held on February 14 and is the latest in a series of defections from the BJP

PANAJI: Goa minister Michael Lobo and lawmaker Pravin Zantye on Monday quit the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) amid a series of defections from the party ahead of the assembly elections in the state on February 14.

Four legislators have now quit the BJP in recent weeks with Lobo expected to join the Opposition Congress. Lobo said he was upset with the functioning of the party, especially the manner in which the grassroots-level workers were treated.

A vocal member of chief minister Pramod Sawant’s Cabinet, Lobo is the third Christian lawmaker after Alina Saldanha and Carlos Almeida to have left the BJP citing changes in the party’s functioning following former chief minister Manohar Parrikar’s death in 2019. Christians account for over 25% of the state’s population.

Lobo said the BJP has become so big that it no longer values the contribution of grassroots workers. “Many came to me to complain. There will be ups and downs in a party but there cannot be a lock, stock, and barrel replacement of workers,” Lobo said. “I have been saying this for a long time but nobody was willing to listen. I felt we were sidelined.”RELATED STORIES.

Lobo said he was in talks with some political parties but was yet to take a decision on his future plans.

His resignation came a day after Congress leader Digambar Kamat said Lobo was in touch with the party leadership ahead of his expected entry. He said this in response to a question about Lobo’s induction into Congress.

Saldanha has joined the Aam Aadmi Party while Almeida and independent lawmaker Prasad Gaonkar the Congress.

State BJP chief Sadanand Shet Tanavade said Lobo’s departure would not make any difference to the party. “All this time he was only physically present in the party. We considered him as having left. We did not dismiss him out of deference to his long contribution to the party.”

Jatin Naik, a political observer, said Lobo’s departure will weaken the BJP in the politically-significant Bardez taluka, which sends seven lawmakers to the 40-member state assembly. “The BJP is on the back foot and with this development, the party’s ability to win a simple majority on its own is significantly diminished.”

Lobo, who represented the Calangute constituency in the taluka, plans to field his wife from the neighbouring Siolim constituency.

Zantye, a cashew nut baron who represented the Maem constituency, is the son of Harish Zantye, a Congress Member of Parliament from North Goa from 1991 to 1996. He quit Congress after he was denied a ticket for the 2012 assembly polls and joined the BJP ahead of the 2017 elections.

Pravin Zantye said he joined the BJP based on the assurances of Parrikar and that the party is not the same today. He blamed the government’s failure in restarting mining and providing jobs in his constituency for his exit. “I will be joining the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP).”

People aware of the matter said Zantye sensed he might be denied a BJP ticket after the party inducted an MGP leader, who was preparing to contest the Maem seat.

The Congress emerged as the single-largest party in the state in 2017 with 17 seats in the 40-member assembly. But it was unable to form the government. The BJP, which won 13 seats, managed to form the government alliance with the help of MGP, Goa Forward Party (GFP), and two independents. In 2019, 10 Congress lawmakers defected and gave the BJP a comfortable majority in the assembly.

MGP has since quit the BJP-led alliance and has tied up with the Trinamool Congress. The GFP is now a Congress ally.

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