Past defections won't affect party, says Congress' South Goa candidate Fernandes

Panaji, Apr 24 (IANS): Defections hit the Congress in Goa in the past, depriving it of the opportunity to form the government. Now the party's Lok Sabha candidate from South Goa, Captain (Retd) Viriato Fernandes, believes this time the BJP will feel the impact of those defections in the polls.

In an exclusive interview with IANS, the retired Indian Navy officer said that the people of Goa have come to know that it is not the fault of the Congress, but of the BJP which encouraged defections to grab power.

IANS: A series of defections took place in the Congress in the last two terms. The people of Goa feel cheated as candidates win on Congress tickets and later join the BJP. Don’t you think this will affect your candidature for the Lok Sabha?

Fernandes: Wherever we go people come and hug us. This is the love and affection they show us. Many of the Congress supporters who had distanced themselves from the party are now attending our meetings and programmes. This shows that people have come to know that we were not responsible for the defections, but it was the BJP who lured them and encouraged them to leave. We were not at fault…

IANS: So do you blame the BJP for the defections?

Fernandes: Yes definitely. This will have an effect on the BJP and not on us. In the 2022 Assembly elections we have seen how people showed the door to defectors by defeating them, the same thing will happen in future.

IANS: How confident are you of winning the Lok Sabha elections and what are the reasons for it?

Fernandes: I am confident that we will win both the seats of Goa as we see there is anger against the BJP for whatever they are doing today. They have failed to keep their promises of resolving unemployment issues. Inflation is increasing every passing day. The BJP failed to restart mining and protect our environment. Second, don’t you think people have come to know how they extorted money from businessmen through electoral bonds and gave contracts in return? The whole world has come to know about this loot and corruption.

IANS: Most of your MLAs have joined the BJP and your party has been reduced to three MLAs, out of which two are from South Goa. Will the mass defections from the party have an impact on your prospects in the Lok Sabha polls?

Fernandes: At present the Congress has a youth brigade and we are all loyal to the party. People know that we are taking them in a new direction of ‘Nyay’ and social harmony. Second, I have the support of INDIA bloc partners like the Goa Forward Party and Aam Aadmi Party. There are two MLAs of the AAP and one of GFP. I have got a good response in these constituencies and in the rest of the constituencies we have our workers. We are getting the best support also from traditional voters of the BJP as they are hurt. There may be several reasons for it.

IANS: What will be your priority for Goa if you are elected?

Fernandes: I feel that there are several issues which need to be addressed. First unemployment and most important is saving our Mandovi River, which has been compromised by the BJP. The government has failed on these issues. Despite having a double engine government it is allowing Karnataka to divert the Mandovi River. People of Goa need to unite and teach a lesson to the BJP for neglecting the core issues of the state. We are contesting to raise the voice of the people in Parliament and give justice to Goans. The government has also failed to give justice to the Scheduled Tribe community who agitated to press for political reservation. I will try my best to help them with their reservation issue.

IANS: Do you have any plans to create employment in Goa?

Fernandes: Yes. We have discussed this issue and we will make it happen. The unemployment rate has increased in the state, especially in the mining belts where people have no other source of income. In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to restart mining in the state, but even he failed. During every election, BJP promises to restart mining in Goa but they have failed. Almost 4.5 lakh people are dependent on mining here.

IANS: You are demanding special status for Goa. What is the reason behind that?

Fernandes: We want to protect our land. In future, there will be no land left for Goans, as anyone coming to Goa can buy land. Having special status will restrict it.

IANS: Though the government has clarified that Dabolim Airport will not close, the Opposition rakes up the issue, creating fear among the people. Is it for political mileage?

Fernandes: It is not for political mileage. We still feel that there is a threat of closure to Dabolim Airport, because offices of airlines have started to shift to Mopa International Airport and the government has not taken any steps to stop them. Many people from South Goa are dependent on this airport, be it taxi owners or any other business. If this airport shuts down, then it will be a big problem for our people. Hence we need to save this airport.


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Title: Past defections won't affect party, says Congress' South Goa candidate Fernandes

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