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Alliance talks stalled, TMC lures away senior GFP leader

The move comes days after discussions between TMC and GFP over a possible pre-poll alliance hit a dead end. The GFP, which has three MLAs in the 40-member Assembly, is once again in talks with the Congress over a pre-election alliance.

In a “shock” to Goa Forward Party (GFP), its working president Kiran Kandolkar, second only to party chief Vijai Sardesai, joined Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Saturday, hours after he tendered his resignation from GFP.

The TMC, latest entrant in the contest for Goa Assembly elections, inducted Kandolkar, his wife Kavita Kandolkar and 40 others, including sarpanches of five villages from Assembly constituencies of Tivim and Aldona in North Goa.

Sardesai said Kandolkar’s move was “shocking and unexpected”, and “hasty”, and called TMC’s action “not in good taste”.

The move comes days after discussions between TMC and GFP over a possible pre-poll alliance hit a dead end. The GFP, which has three MLAs in the 40-member Assembly, is once again in talks with the Congress over a pre-election alliance.

While this was TMC’s first grab from GFP, the development is seen as a setback to the regional party, as Kandolkar is a prominent Scheduled Caste leader and was seen as among its “winnable” candidates.

Sardesai had met West Bengal chief minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee on her visit to Goa on October 30. “Regional parties are strong parties and we want to see a strong federal structure. We don’t want outsiders’ dadagiri (bullying) — we want insiders to work,” Banerjee had said after their meeting.

Talks between the two parties subsequently fell through.

Kandolkar, a former MLA from Tivim, resigned from primary membership of GFP on Saturday morning and joined TMC hours later. He had not discussed the move with Sardesai until his resignation from the party, sources said.

TMC national vice-president Luizinho Faleiro and Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra, who recently took over as the party’s in-charge for Goa, were among those present at the induction ceremony held at the International Centre in Dona Paula.

Kandolkar said, “No party apart from TMC is serious about defeating BJP in Goa. I quit GFP in protest against a possible alliance with Congress because the Congress has not shown any seriousness (in defeating BJP). Congress is the B-team of BJP. Leaders like Rahul Gandhi fail to stand up to (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi. (AAP chief Arvind) Kejriwal only comes and promises to give this for free and that for free. Mamata-didi alone stands up to Modi and Amit Shah and is serious about packing the BJP off from Goa.”

He claimed that many of his supporters, including MLAs and ex-MLAs, are set to join TMC in the days ahead.

Kandolkar had joined GFP in November 2020 and was soon made the party’s working president. On Saturday, Faleiro called the Kandolkars “agents of change” and said, “It is clear that the Bahujan Samaj community stands united with Goa TMC across the state. This is just the beginning.”

Sardesai told The Sunday Express, “No doubt this is a hit for us, but I am not someone who runs away from a fight.”

Maintaining that Kandolkar was “highly respected in our party”, the GFP chief said, “He had apprehension about being denied a ticket to contest if we form an alliance with Congress. But we have not forged any alliance so far and his decision was based only on conjectures. Kiran’s decision is hasty and we will get to know eventually why he took it. But now that he has joined another party, I wish him all the best.”

Kandolkar was expected to be GFP’s candidate from Aldona constituency, and the party had already announced candidature of Kavita, a Zilla Panchayat member from Colvale, from Tivim constituency.

Kandolkar, however, said the Aldona seat may not remain with GFP if it forms an alliance with Congress, and pointed out that senior Congress leader P Chidambaram “was campaigning in Aldona yesterday”.

Sardesai said, “If we were to form an alliance, we would have fought for him and ensured that winnable candidates are not denied a ticket. But there is no alliance yet…”

While TMC said Kandolkar’s exit was a sign of a ‘split’ within GFP ranks, Sardesai said, “I did not expect a party promising to bring a new dawn in Goa to be acting in this manner against its youngest regional force. This is not in good taste. They said they are here to break BJP but now they are breaking us.”

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