Panaji: Controversial Goa Education Minister and unattached legislator Atanasio Monserrate`s entry into the Congress has triggered sharp reactions from both within the party and the opposition.
An unattached legislator from the United Goans Democratic Party (UGDP), Monserrate faces charges ranging from extortion, assault, arson and other serious crimes, including inciting a mob to attack the Panaji police station in 2008. He also allegedly led an assault on Youth Congress members in his constituency 2007.
"The Congress high command has taken stock of the criminal background of Monserrate. They (high command) have taken the final decision, not us," Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) president Subhash Shirodkar told IANS.
Addressing a press conference Monday, the day Monserrate joined, Shirodkar said the decision to allow a controversial politician to join the Congress was taken by party chief Sonia Gandhi and the high command.
A bitter Sankalp Amonkar, head of Youth Congress` Goa unit, told IANS that his outfit could not do much about the party high command`s decision to welcome the education minister, but added that the assault allegedly orchestrated by Monserrate and his men in 2007 should be thoroughly probed by the police.
"We are loyal soldiers of the party and we have nothing to say on the party`s decision. But our stand on the Dec 18, 2007, incident wherein the Youth Congress members were assaulted in Taleigao (Monserrate`s constituency) remains the same. We want a thorough probe in the matter," he said.
Monserrate`s joining the Congress should not make any difference to the police investigation, Amonkar added.
He was referring to the beating up Youth Congress workers, peacefully demonstrating in support of the Rajiv Gandhi Information Technology (IT) park in 2007. Monserrate had then opposed the proposed project located on the outskirts of the capital, for which the foundation stone had been laid by the Congress president herself.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also come down heavily on the Congress for allowing a tainted politician in its ranks.
"The Congress party is ready to welcome anyone even with the worst kind of criminal track records. If you look at the track record of the Congress politicians here, nearly everyone is tainted," BJP Goa unit`s general secretary Govind Parvatkar said.
He said it was a matter of shame that a politician with several criminal cases against him was welcomed into the national party amid such fanfare. "It`s very, very saddening for politics in Goa indeed," Parvatkar said.
In 2008 Monserrate led a mob that attacked the Panaji police station, in which several policemen were injured and women police constables molested. The incident is currently being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Monserrate, who has already been charge-sheeted in another case for extortion filed by a local businessman, has also been accused of forging his education certificate to show that he had completed his matriculation, when in fact the minister had quit school while studying in class 8.
The entry of Monserrate into the Congress takes the party`s tally in the 40-member legislative assembly to 19. The Congress is currently heading a coalition government partnered by the Nationalist Congress Party, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and one independent legislator.