Goa Assembly Elections: Goa Congress candidates at the Mahalaxmi Temple in Panaji.
The Congress party in Goa is pulling out all the stops to ensure that the practice of switching sides by elected representatives is a thing of the past.
Just a few weeks ahead of the February 14 assembly elections in Goa, Congress candidates visited different religious places and took a pledge of "loyalty" towards the people and the party.
The moves comes as the Congress has seen 15 out of 17 MLAs defecting to other parties since the last election during the BJP government's tenure -- the current strength of the Congress in the House is two, while that of the BJP is 27.
In photos and videos shared on Twitter by the party on Saturday, Congress candidates from across Goa were seen visiting the Mahalaxmi Temple, Bambolim Cross and Hamza Shah Dargah.
The priests at the Mahalaxmi temple in Panaji and the Bambolim Cross in Konkani administered oaths to the candidates who pledged that they would stay in the Congress for at least five years after winning the election. The candidates later offered a 'chaadar' at a mosque in Betim.
Senior leaders including P Chidambaram, All India Congress Committee Goa desk in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao, Goa Pradesh Congress Committee chief Girish Chodankar among others accompanied the 34 candidates to the places of worship.
"In order to build trust in the minds of people, the exercise of getting candidates swear before God was undertaken," Mr Chodankar said.
"We have tried to remove any doubts from the minds of public. Congress is very serious about the perception. Political parties are poaching our MLAs... We have to be more aggressive towards parties who are offering money and buying our MLAs," Congress Legislature Party leader Digambar Kamat said.
Since the last election, the Congress has seen most of its legislators quitting the party. The party, which had emerged as the single largest force by winning 17 seats in the 40-member House after the 2017 Assembly elections, has only two MLAs in the House. In 2019, 10 Congress legislators had joined the ruling BJP.
However, the Congress is not the only party in the state fighting to stop defections.
A recent report by the Association of Democratic Reforms said Goa has set a unique record as at least 24 legislators, which is 60 per cent of the total strength of the 40-member state Assembly, have switched parties in the last five years.
Recently, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is also contesting the Goa Assembly elections, had announced that its candidates will have to sign legal affidavits mentioning that they will not quit the party to join another one if they get elected.
Assembly polls in Goa will be held on February 14 and counting will take place on March 10.