For Michael Vincent Lobo, one of Goa’s richest legislators and a successful businessman, it is “ghar wapsi” time.
After defecting from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to the Congress just before the assembly elections earlier this year, the MLA from Calangute is back in the BJP, this time, along with seven other MLAs, including former chief minister Digambar Kamat.
Having started his career in the early 2000s as a young Congress worker, he was identified by BJP leader and MLA Dilip Parulekar. Lobo, who prides himself on being one of “Manohar Parrikar’s handpicked boys”, is one of the leading men who orchestrated the defections from the Congress to the BJP in July, which were thwarted.
Sources in the BJP told News18 that the talks with the ruling party in Goa – the BJP – have been on for several months, but the timing had to be right.
Lobo, considered a strongman of Goa’s Bardez taluka, is a three-time MLA. Along with his wife Delilah, he severed his 15-year-old ties with the BJP to defect to the Congress, after she was apparently denied a ticket from Siolim by the BJP.
Although Lobo had denied this when this reporter met him during the Goa election campaign, he defended his wife saying she had been a sarpanch of Parra Panchayat for five years and worked hard for people.
“There were people who say that I left because my wife was denied a ticket. We both left the BJP as it was no longer the BJP that Manohar Parrikar had built and the future that he had envisioned,” he told News18 earlier this year.
Then came the jolt in July, when the news of defection by a group of Congressmen began doing the rounds, with Lobo and Kamat being the names on top of the list. Lobo denied any such move at the time, but the Congress knew their time with Lobo was up when he did not turn up for the press conference called by Goa in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao to show their unity, amid speculations of defections. Lobo and Kamat were conspicuous by their absence and Rao had told News 18 that the conspiracy to “finish the Congress” was led by Lobo, who was the leader of opposition at the time.
“Michael Lobo and Digambar Kamat have been conspiring against the party and hobnobbing with the BJP to ensure a split in the Goa Congress and finish the opposition in Goa. They hatched a conspiracy to ensure the Congress party in Goa is weakened and engineered the defections. But they can’t break us. We will rise like a phoenix again,” Rao had said.
Lobo was among the 36 Congress candidates in Goa who stood before the deity at Goa’s Mahalaxmi temple and took a pledge to remain loyal to the Congress.
Why ‘Parrikar Boy’ Michael Lobo, Goa’s Richest Candidate, Is Sure of Hat-trick This Election
Lobo had claimed the BJP in Goa was no longer a “party with a difference” and had lost its spirit after Parrikar’s death. He had alleged that the present BJP, under the leadership of Sawant, was “commercialised” and those who were brought in by Parrikar were being sidelined.
Coming from the hotel industry background, Lobo was quick to draw an analogy on those lines. “It’s like a restaurant that used to serve tasty, good food. It loses its taste and essence once it becomes a popular joint. The same is the case with the BJP. It has lost its essence,” Lobo had said, expressing his bitterness with the party before switching over to the Congress.
Cut to September and Michael Lobo is back in the BJP.
“Goa has finally become Congress-mukt. Now, Goa will shine. There are just two AAP MLAs and three from the Congress in the Opposition. They will also be quashed soon,” said Sandesh Sadhale, media cell convener, Goa BJP, to News18.
Lobo and his wife Delilah are the richest MLA couple in the coastal state with assets worth more than Rs 90 crore each. Lobo represents the Calangute constituency, known to be Goa’s party capital and the epicentre of beach tourism. He owns a string of hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues and clubs across the area.
Interestingly, Lobo is faced with a slew of criminal cases filed by the Goa government allegedly for land grabbing and forest rule violations.
An FIR was filed against Lobo and Delilah on May 2 for alleged land-filling and tree-cutting in Parra. Town and Country Planning (TCP) Minister Vishwajit Rane had said that they were found in violation of sections 17A and 17B of the TCP Act, 1974 which led to destruction of a forest area. The couple has been accused of illegally converting a place in Marar as Outline Development Plan (ODP) for settlement.
Again on June 10, a show-cause notice was issued to Lobo after the Goa government found Hotel Nazri Resort and Hotel Baga Deck — both owned by Lobo — to be illegally constructed. The Town and Country Planning issued a notice and also said that it was a fit case for demolition.
However, in 2016, Lobo had been charge-sheeted in a case involving cheating and forging documents related to Coastal Regulatory Zone clearances for construction of a resort in the popular coastal village of Calangute.