Attacks on Goa BJP legislators continue, Michael Lobo latest victim

BJP's Michael Lobo is the latest addition to a mysterious spree of ruling party legislators who were at the receiving end of ugly scuffles in public over the past one year.

Panaji: BJP's Michael Lobo is the latest addition to a mysterious spree of ruling party legislators who were at the receiving end of ugly scuffles in public over the past one year.

Lobo, elected from the cash-rich coastal constituency of Calangute in North Goa, fractured his hand after an outgoing deputy Sarpanch in his constituency assaulted him with a wooden stick last week.

While Lobo claimed that his attacker, Cleophas Fernandes, who has since been booked for attempt to murder, attacked him out of frustration, after failing to retain his seat in the Arpora-Nagoa village panchayat, the opposition claims the clash followed a tourism-related extortion racket in which several politicians are allegedly involved.

"It was an act of frustration by Cleophas (Fernandes)," Lobo said, commenting on the attack on him at a cafe in Arpora in full public view Dec 5.

Fernandes, who continues to elude the police, has several criminal cases booked against him at the Anjuna police station.

"He has always received political support. That's why he has never been in police custody," Lobo said, even as the media as well as the opposition alleged that a minister was sheltering the attacker.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) vice president Trajano D'Mello has alleged that the fight between the two elected representatives was over clearances granted by the village panchayat for setting up tourism-related business in the coastal belt.

"The extortion angle in the attack must be probed by the Crime Branch. Ruling MLAs being beaten up in public view are such an embarrassment for the state," D'Mello said.

Lobo is not the only BJP legislator to be attacked in the last 12 months. The BJP-led coalition has been ruling Goa since March 2012.

In December last year, BJP legislator Vishnu Wagh's car was stoned and he was attacked by -- according to Wagh himself -- BJP workers after he attended a cultural event organised by NCP president Nilkanth Halarnkar on the occasion of the Goa Liberation Day (Dec 19).

"They were workers from my party who were angry that I attended a cultural event organized by Nilkanth. I have every right to attend a cultural event which has no political colour," Wagh had then said.

His wife Aruna publicly accused BJP organising secretary Satish Dhond and party legislator Kiran Kandolkar of orchestrating the attack, a charge which the two, as well as senior BJP officials, rejected outright.

While the police have been unable to pin down Wagh's attackers, the BJP legislator Saturday took to Facebook to denounce the attack on Lobo.

"(Lobo) was treated in a district hospital and discharged. (It was the) second attack on an MLA at a public place within one year," Wagh said.

Wagh appears to have missed out on an alleged scuffle between two BJP legislators, Subhash Phaldesai and Kandolkar, at the Goa Niwas, the state's official residency in New Delhi.

The incident occurred in January this year when BJP MLAs were in the capital to attend the party's national executive meet when Kandolkar allegedly flung a drinking glass at Phaldesai which resulted in the latter requiring medical help, according to the opposition.

The BJP reacted by calling the incident a "rumour". A couple of days later, Phaldesai, who landed in Goa with a head injury, accused the local media of working like a corrupt syndicate.

"I have injuries on my knees and hands. I showed it to the press, but they do not publish it because the media has been sold," Phaldesai said.

In light of the attack on Lobo, the Congress has now contended that a government which cannot protect its own legislators cannot be expected to protect its citizens.