A matter of dislike: Inside story of how the Congress snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Goa

The Goa state unit's chief dislike for the Goa Forward Party and its head Vijai Sardesai played a major role in Congress being unable to form the Goa government despite emerging as the single-largest party.

The self goal scored by the Congress party in Goa, eventually paved the way for the Bharatiya Janata Party to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the scenic coastal state, famous for its beautiful beaches and feni.

The ignominy of being pipped to the post despite emerging as the single largest party on March 11 could have been avoided but for the vaulting ambition of its state leaders particularly, Pradesh Congress Committee chief Eduardo Faleiro.

Congress won 17 seats in Goa's 40-seat Assembly. The BJP came in a distant second with 13 seats, leaving Congress clear to claim majority if the latter could get the support of four other MLAs.

However, Eduardo Faleiro's pathological dislike for the Vijai Sardesai-led Goa Forward Party, which won three seats, and repeated attempts on his part to scupper a pre-poll alliance between the two parties from taking place was the single biggest factor that cost Congress the chance of forming the government in Goa.

GOA FORWARD: A LOST CHANCE

Congress's central leadership had assiduously worked on Sardesai in the months leading up to the Assembly elections, and had persuaded him to enter into an alliance with the party. However, Faleiro's refusal to negotiate with Goa Forward put paid to a formal alliance.

The central leadership then agreed to work out a informal arrangement by not putting up a candidate against Sardesai in Goa's Fatorda. The PCC chief did his best to derail this as well by letting an independent candidate compete against Sardesai on the Congress's symbol.

It took a desperate last minute-intervention on the part of Digvijay Singh, the AICC general secretary in charge of Goa, to get the Faleiro to back off.

WHO WILL BE CM?

On March 11, once it became evident that the Congress would need support from parties like the forward party and others to form the government, Digvijay Singh and former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat reached out to Sardesai.

After a bit of persuasion Sardesai and the other two Goa Forward MLAs agreed to support a Congress-led government provided somebody other than Faleiro was made the chief minister.

Sardesai was even made to speak to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi the Congress. It was at this stage that the Faleiro decided to throw his hat into the ring.

Sardeasi, predictably, refused to support him as the chief minister. Digvijay Singh and his team then spent the better part of a night getting persuade Faleiro to agree to Digambar Kamath as a consensus candidate for the CM's post.

TOO LITTLE TOO LATE

However, by this time Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Manohar Parrikar, now the Goa chief minister, had managed to win over Sardesai and his MLAs, and as morning dawned the three Goa Forward MLAs were firmly ensconced in the safe custody of Parikarr's home.

Their phones had been switched off even as Digvijay Singh and Digambar Kamath desperately tried to speak to them in vain.

Two hours later, Manohar Parrikar called on state governor Mridula Sinha to stake his claim to form the government, along with the required letters of support from Sardesai and his Goa Forward MLAs.

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