Former Goa minister Michael Lobo, who moved from the BJP to Congress earlier this month, has contended that there is no place in the party any more for people handpicked by the state's three-time Chief Minister, the late Manohar Parrikar. The BJP claim that he left because the party was not ready to give a ticket to his wife is a "blatant lie", he said.
"Nobody will leave the BJP which rules in the Centre and the state. Nobody will leave and join a party which has one MLA," he said, explaining his decision to join the Congress, which from having 17 MLAs in 2017, had depleted to one.
"All those handpicked by Manohar Parrikar have been sidelined... they are being kept in one corner," he said, alleging that there is "a coterie in the Goa BJP" which is "humiliating" veteran leaders so they leave.
As example, he cited the case of Datta Prasad Naik, the leader of Bhandari Samaj, who quit yesterday. Mr Naik was removed as the party spokesperson last year.
"Anil Hoble is thrown out. Manohar Parrikar's own son does not have space in the BJP," he said, citing Utpal Parrikar, who filed his nomination as an Independent candidate earlier today from his father's seat of Panaji.
"Michael Lobo was sidelined. I being a minister, I left and resigned as a minister. I have left so the people of Goa feel that we are in a democratic country," he said.
Over the last weeks, the BJP has gained four leaders and lost four. As Alina Saldanha left for Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party, Pravin Zantye for Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, and Carlos Almeida and Michael Lobo to Congress, the BJP inducted four sitting MLAs -- Independents Govind Gaude and Rohan Khaunte Goa Forward Party's Jayesh Salgaocar and Ravi Naik from the Congress.
But beyond saying that only people who failed to get a ticket left, the party has not commented on the departures.
The exit of Mr Lobo, however, stung. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said, "We work with the philosophy of `nation first, state first', while former MLA Michael Lobo, who has left the party, has his priority as 'patni pratham' (wife first)".
Mr Lobo and his wife Delilah quit the BJP on January 10 and joined the Congress the very next day. She is now a candidate from the Siolim seat.
"I would directly deny the allegation because they have never asked for ticket. This is all a blatant lie," he said.
There is also speculation that Mr Lobo joined the Congress to fulfill bigger ambitions in the much-depleted party. The BJP choice of Laxmikant Parsekar for the state's top post instead of Francisco D'Souza -- Goa BJP's earliest Christian face who was Manohar Parrikar's deputy -- has sent a message that a background in the party's ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is essential to move forward.