'Remain friends' despite no tie-up with NCP-Shiv Sena in Goa: Chidambaram
New Delhi, Jan 30: Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday said an alliance could not be forged between his party and the NCP-Shiv Sena for the Goa Assembly polls despite best efforts but asserted that they "will remain friends" and after the elections, the Congress would continue to explore opportunities to "work together" with them.
Chidambaram, who is the Congress' senior election observer for the Goa Assembly polls, also hit out at the TMC for its barbs at the Congress for not forging an alliance with it, saying the party continued to poach Congress leaders, despite making an offer of a tie-up.
The senior Congress leader said he received no instructions from the party leadership to hold talks with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and added that, "I am sure our leadership had taken into account all the facts and circumstances".
In an interview with PTI, Chidambaram said whether the party would announce a chief ministerial name before or after the elections would be decided after consulting all the candidates and the party would go by the consensus among them.
He also asserted that the contest in the Goa polls is "between the Congress (plus Goa Forward Party) and the BJP and we will be able to win a simple majority".
Asked why the Congress was not able to tie up with other Opposition parties especially the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiv Sena, Chidambaram said the NCP and Shiv Sena are the Congress' allies in Maharashtra and it would have liked them to be allies in Goa as well. "We tried.They made certain proposals.We made certain proposals. Unfortunately, there was no meeting point. I acknowledge that both sides had compulsions and despite our best efforts we could not find a meeting point," Chidambaram said.
"Nevertheless, we are friends and will remain friends. After the elections, we will continue to explore opportunities to work together with NCP and Shiv Sena," he said.
After the 2019 Assembly elections in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena, which till then allied with the BJP, joined hands with the NCP and the Congress, to form a government, which was given the name Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA). The Shiv Sena and the NCP had earlier this month announced that they would contest the Goa elections together.
Asked about the TMC's barbs at the Congress over not forging a tie-up with it, Chidambaram said he is not able to understand the TMC's position. "They entered Goa a few months ago and my distinguished friend, Mamata ji, declared in Goa that TMC had formed an alliance and any other party was welcome to join their alliance. The General Secretary of TMC declared that TMC will contest all 40 seats. Then, they lured Mr Luizinho Faleiro, Congress MLA, to the TMC," Chidambaram said.
The Congress announced its first list of candidates on December 16, including the name of Reginald Laurenco, sitting MLA, and four days later, on December 20, Laurenco was admitted to the TMC, he said, detailing the sequence of events.
"On December 24, TMC's Vice President met me and suggested that the two parties should work together in Goa. I agreed to convey the suggestion to our leadership, and I promptly did," he said.
However, the TMC continued to poach our leaders, sarpanches, panches, etc., for example in Vasco and Marmugao, he said.
"I received no instructions from our leadership to hold talks with TMC. I am sure our leadership had taken into account all the facts and circumstances. As far as I was concerned, the matter rested there," Chidambaram said.
On the Congress MLAs switching to BJP in the current assembly and what measures the party was taking to prevent a repeat, the Congress' Goa polls in-charge said "loyalty" is the "top priority" for the party. The most important measure - which has been implemented in 30 constituencies - is that candidates recommended by the Block have been selected to contest the elections, he said. "Blocks were asked to place loyalty as the top criterion. Next, the candidates spontaneously offered to take a pledge before a Temple, a Church and a Dargah. I think such a pledge has removed any lingering doubt about the loyalty of our candidates to the Congress Party and to the voters who will vote them to office," Chidambaram said.
Ahead of the elections, the candidates of the Congress, which was hit hardest by defections in the BJP-ruled state in the last five years, have taken an 'anti-defection pledge' before a temple, church as well as a dargah.
Asked if the party would announce a CM face before polls, Chidambaram pointed out that he has stated that whether "we should announce a CM name before or after the elections will be decided after consulting all the candidates". "We intend to do that. We will go by the consensus among the candidates," he said.
On whether the Congress would be open to a post poll alliance, Chidambaram said the contest was between the Congress (+GFP) and the BJP and exuded confidence that his party's alliance will be able to win a simple majority. He said that post elections, if other parties are willing to support a Congress-led government, the Congress would take a call depending on the circumstances. Chidambaram said the feedback from the ground is "positive" and expressed confidence that the Congress' alliance would do well as the "anti-BJP sentiment" is gathering pace everyday. After suffering BJP's "misrule" for 10 years, the people of Goa want a non-BJP government, he said.
Assembly polls for all 40 seats in Goa will be held on February 14.
In the 2017 Goa Assembly elections, the Congress had won 17 seats in the House and emerged as the single largest party. But, the BJP, which had bagged 13 seats, quickly tied-up with some regional parties and independents to form the government in the state.