Babush rejoins Cong; likely to be candidate for Panaji bypoll

Panaji: A day after quitting Goa Forward Party (GFP) and resigning as the chairman of Greater Panaji Planning and Development Authority, former minister Atanasio Monserrate alias Babush Thursday rejoined the Congress party.

Monserrate, who had earlier announced that he would contest the Panaji bypoll as an Independent candidate, is most likely to be given the Congress ticket to contest the May 19 bypoll.

“I think it is the return of the prodigal son. So the son has basically learnt his lessons roaming everywhere. This is my home and I have come back home,” said Monserrate while interacting with media persons after rejoining the Congress party along with his supporters including Corporation of the City of Panaji corporators from his panel.

Babush joined the party in the presence of Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Girish Chodankar, Congress Legislature Party leader Chandrakant Kavlekar and Congress MLAs.

Recollecting his expulsion from the Congress party four years ago, Monserrate said that he did not leave the party and that it was former party president and Navelim MLA Luizinho Faleiro who removed him from the party.

Monserrate was expelled by Faleiro-led PCC for six consecutive years for alleged anti-party activity. However, Congress has reinducted him within four years, overlooking the ban period.

“There was always a doubt in people’s mind whether this will be the end of the road and whether after winning election as an Independent I will jump to another party. Therefore, people have to be very sure who they are voting for and there was a very loud and clear call from the people which is the reason I decided to join Congress,” he justified.

Monserrate said that it was due to the ‘trust deficit’ of the people that he lost the election in Panaji when he contested as an Independent candidate, adding that there was confusion in the minds of the people whether he would jump to another party or support Congress.

“I am going to fight this election for the development of the city and for employment of youth,” he said.

Excited over Monserrate’s entry into the party, Margao MLA Digambar Kamat said that his former colleague in the cabinet took the decision to rejoin Congress only after consulting his supporters and listening to the voice of the people of Panaji.

“Babush has the art of making anyone smart, he has all the capabilities to change the face of Panaji. I am sure if he gets just three years then you will soon see outsiders question whether this was the capital of Goa; see the new capital of Goa. He can do this in just three years. Hence, I appeal to the people of Panaji that they should rally behind Monserrate in the bypoll,” said Kamat announcing Babush’s candidature for the Panaji bypoll.

However, GPCC president Girish Chodankar said that the Pradesh Election Committee of the party will meet over the next two days and take a final call on the candidate for the Panaji assembly seat.

As excited as Kamat, over the entry of Monserrate, senior leader Faleiro was quick to respond to the questions posed by media persons wherein he said that there is a popular demand that ticket should be given to Monserrate and by the evening the party president Chodankar may announce it.

When questioned whether Congress was regretting expelling Monserrate from the party, Faleiro said that the question of regretting or not regretting does not arise and the party has always moved ahead as per the changing times.

Before joining Congress, the Taleigao strongman held a meeting with his supporters at his residence. It is learnt from reliable sources that before joining the Congress party, Babush was in touch with BJP. However, it is not known why he was in touch with a senior BJP leader.

On Thursday morning, around 10 am, Monserrate had called his supporters at his Taleigao office from where he was supposed to leave immediately for Panaji. However, since he did not leave, around 10.45 am, Congress MLA Tony Fernandes, former MLA Agnelo Fernandes and Vijay Pai reached Taleigao.

Sources said that as there was no positive response from the BJP, Babush announced before his supporters that he has decided to join the Congress party. Then after 11.30 am, he, along with his supporters, marched to the capital city to join Congress party.