With predictions of a hung assembly in Goa, the Congress has moved all its candidates who contested the elections to a luxury resort ahead of the counting of votes on Thursday as it seeks to avoid a repeat of its debacle in 2017, when it emerged as the single largest party but failed to form the government.
Goa Congress candidates convened at a resort in Bambolim, near the capital city of Panaji on Tuesday, with the party saying they gathered to celebrate the birthday of a senior leader.
“We are here to celebrate the birthday of Opposition leader Digambar Kamat. It’s a celebration time,” Michael Lobo, who left the BJP government in the state ahead of the elections, was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
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“There is no worry about poaching,” he added, dismissing the notion of the party was corralling its candidates.
However, some Congress leaders, as well as the luggage hauled in, indicated otherwise.
“There are worries. That is why the candidates are kept under one roof. Some of the candidates will not be allowed even to visit the counting centre tomorrow. Their counting agents will represent them,” a senior Congress leader said.
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The party may not allow some candidates even to visit the counting centre on Thursday, a senior Congress leader said on Wednesday.
However, Lobo said all the candidates will go to the counting centre.”Let them celebrate their victory and return to stake a claim to form the government”.
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After being reduced to just two MLAs in the 40-member House from the 17 seats it had won in 2017 and the Goa political space getting crowded with the entry of TMC and AAP, the Congress did some course correction ahead of polls this time.
Before the polls, held on February 14, Congress made all its 37 candidates sign affidavits to ensure that they will not defect to other parties after getting elected.
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Similar measures have been taken in three other states that went to polls in recent weeks, with the Congress high command sending senior leaders to oversee poll management.
Karnataka Congress chief D K Sivakumar, who is often the Congress’ go-to person for post-poll situations, is the special observer in Goa, while general secretary Mukul Wasnik, senior Chhattisgarh leader T S Singh Deo and Vincent Pala have been sent to Manipur, the Indian Express reported.
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In Punjab, the Congress has appointed general Ajay Maken and party spokesperson Pawan Khera, while Rajya Sabha MP Deepender Singh Hooda has been sent to Uttarakhand.
On Monday, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vardra visited Jaipur to discuss the possibility of hosting party leaders in the state to avoid poaching attempts, according to the Indian Express.