Congress denies rift in Goa coalition, Naik skips meet

October 17th, 2008 - 12:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyPanaji, Oct 17 (IANS) Goa’s ruling Congress has denied any rift in the ranks, but tensions were evident with its home minister conspicuous by his absence at a meeting to resolve differences following a minister’s son being charged with the rape of a German teenager.On Thursday night, Home Minister Ravi Naik stayed away from a meeting of legislators also attended by All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in-charge of Goa B. Hariprasad who denied that the party’s central leadership had sent him to the state to seal the rift in the cabinet.

“I was only called to discuss some problems faced by the legislators in their constituencies,” Hariprasad told reporters.

But the divisions were apparent in the coalition led by the Congress and including the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the United Goans Democratic Party (UGDP) and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP).

Earlier Thursday, Public Works Department Minister Churchill Alemao had said categorically: “There is a split in the cabinet.”

Education Minister Atanasio Monseratte, the lone UGDP legislator, whose son Rohit has been charged with raping a 14-year-old German girl, has claimed that he was being targeted by Naik. He also accused Naik, whose son Roy has been linked to the murder of British teenager Scarlett Keeling, of double standards.

The clash between the Congress minister and the UGDP minister has precipitated a crisis in the Goa government. A group of more than a dozen legislators has asked the Congress high command for a change in leadership.

Trying to cool down tensions, Hariprasad said there was no tussle between Naik and Monseratte.

“The law must take its own course,” he replied, when asked about the rape complaint against Monseratte’s son.

On Wednesday, Monseratte had told reporters: “The home minister is orchestrating the police, who are after us.”

Monseratte said Chief Minister Digamber Kamat should take note of the developments. “Today it is me. Tomorrow it could be some other MLA (legislator),” he warned.

A group of legislators, including Alemao, Aleixo Reginald, Chandrakant Kavlekar, Babu Azgaonkar, Agenlo Fernandes and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) member Jose Philip Dsouza, had met Wednesday night at Monserratte’s home and decided to demand Kamat’s ouster.

However, after Thursday’s meeting of the Congress party, Kamat said: “I have survived (as chief minister) only because I carry all sections together with me.”

He added that he had assured Monseratte that no injustice would be done to him.

In the 39-member assembly, the Congress has 17 legislators, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 14, NCP three, UGDP one, MGP two and there are two independents.

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