The "missing" rape victim who, in 2016, had accused Congress leader Atanasio Monserrate, now a candidate for the Panaji Assembly by-election on May 19, could have gone for a party or a wedding and may not be missing at all, Goa Congress legal cell Chairman Carlos Ferreira said here on Tuesday.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has urged the Pramod Sawant led-coalition government to track the victim at the earliest and ensure justice to her.
Mr Ferreira said the victim, a minor at the time of the alleged rape and now an adult, could have gone for a party or a wedding and could return to the shelter home in South Goa from where she went missing on April 28.
"She may have gone for a party or a wedding and return. The police cannot file a case of abduction because she is now a major. The case is motivated," he said.
Addressing the media at the party office, state Congress chief Girish Chodankar accused the BJP of allegedly facilitating the "sudden disappearance" of the victim to draw political mileage ahead of the by-election.
Nuns who run the shelter home, where the victim was being rehabilitated, had filed the missing complaint at the Verna police station in South Goa on April 28. On Monday, the police upgraded the missing complaint and added charges under Section 362 (abduction) of the Indian Penal Code. The police sources said the victim had "disappeared" on four earlier occasions, but had returned to the shelter home on each occasion.
According to the police investigation, she was last seen getting off a public transport bus on April 28 at Zuarinagar, a suburb of the port town of Vasco in the South Goa district.
Monserrate was chargesheeted last year and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act after being charged in 2016 for allegedly raping the girl after drugging her.
The state Congress chief also accused the BJP of "engineering" the controversy for political benefit.
"The girl went missing on April 28 and the BJP with the help of the police is raking this controversy for political benefit. The BJP has resorted to such unscrupulous activities in the past. The police is helping the BJP-led coalition government to create a situation and get political mileage," Mr Chodankar said.
"Their plan is to create an atmosphere of confusion before the election. For all you know, we may see, the victim return to the home after elections. The government and the police should provide protection to her at the earliest," he said.
Reacting to the Congress charge, state BJP chief Vinay Tendulkar said, "We have requested the state government to step up the efforts to track her down and ensure that justice is done to her."