Congress nominee's 'Constitution forced on Goa' remarks invite PM ire; BJP files complaint

Congress candidate from South Goa constituency Viriato Fernandes being greeted by a party leader, in Goa.
Congress candidate from South Goa constituency Viriato Fernandes being greeted by a party leader, in Goa.

Panaji | South Goa Congress nominee Viriato Fernandes's remarks that the Constitution was "forced" on the costal state after its liberation from the Portuguese rule sparked a row with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday latching on to the comments to slam the opposition party and the BJP lodging a complaint with the EC.

A defiant Fernandes said he was ready for a debate on his controversial comments as well as on issues like "destruction of Goa's identity", unemployment, inflation, crime and corruption under the BJP rule even as he received support from his party in the coastal state.

The Navy veteran-turned-politician asserted his words should not be twisted for political mileage.

Addressing an election rally on Monday in South Goa, Fernandes referred to his conversation with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and said he had told him, "When Goa was liberated in the year 1961, the Indian Constitution was forced upon us."

His comments found echo in faraway Chhattisgarh where PM Modi, addressing a BJP campaign rally in Sakti district, tore into the Congress over the remarks and termed them a "ploy" to break the country.

"...now a Congress candidate from Goa says the Indian Constitution is not applicable in Goa. He is saying the Constitution was forced on Goa....Isn't this an insult to Babasaheb Ambedkar? Isn't this an insult to the Constitution? Is this not tampering with the Constitution of India?" the PM asked.

Modi further said today the Congress was rejecting the Constitution in Goa, and tomorrow it would do the same in the entire country.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Tuesday said Fernandes' comments clearly reflected 'Bharat Todo Abhiyaan' (breaking up the country) of the Congress. On Monday, he had termed the comments appalling.

In a video statement, Sawant said the Congress kept Jammu and Kashmir separate and delayed the liberation of Goa from the Portuguese rule.

"The statement by Fernandes is an insult to all the Goans, freedom fighters who struggled to liberate Goa, the nation (India) and the Indian Constitution," the BJP leader noted.

"The mentality of Fernandes reflects the pro-Portuguese behaviour and also the ideology of Bharat Todo Abhiyaan of the Congress," he said.

The CM wondered whether his conversation with Gandhi in 2019, during which he made the controversial remarks, helped Fernandes get an election ticket in 2024.

Sawant said everyone should condemn the remarks made by Fernandes and questioned the silence of Congress MLAs over the issue.

The BJP turned up heat on the Congress and on Tuesday lodged a complaint with the Election Commission against Fernandes.

Goa BJP president Sadanand Shet Tanavade submitted a complaint to Chief Electoral Officer Ramesh Verma, alleging Fernandes' remarks were a "clear case of spewing venom against the sacred Constitution of India" and violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

In the complaint, the BJP accused the Congress nominee of indulging in hate speech against the Constitution and sought the cancellation of his candidature.

Facing fire, Fernandes said his words should not be twisted for political mileage and called for a debate on his remarks.

Fernandes on his X handle said, "Dear @goacm, Dont try to twist and turn selective words from my speech to get political mileage & spread venom. I am ready for an open Debate on what i spoke as well as issues of Destruction of Identity of Goa, Rise in Unemployment, Inflation, Crimes & Corruption under @BJP4India ."

Leader of Opposition in the Goa Assembly and Congress MLA Yuri Alemao came out in support of his party nominee and said the BJP has no moral right to speak on the Constitution.

Alemao, in a post on X, said, "@goacm @DrPramodPSawant 's @BJP4Goa Govt was formed with Murder of Constitution. @BJP4India which engineered Defections all across Country have no moral right to speak on Constitution. Lets speak on Crimes, Unemployment, Inflation, Corruption, Destruction of Goa by BJP in 10 yrs."

Goa, which has two Lok Sabha seats, will vote on May 7 in the third phase of polling.

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