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Congress’s South Goa candidate Viriato Fernandes has claimed the Indian Constitution was “forced” on Goa after its liberation from the Portuguese rule in 1961. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant called the comments appalling and said the Congress is a threat to democracy.

Addressing an election meeting on Monday, Mr Fernandes recalled that then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had said Goa, which became a state in 1987, will decide its own destiny, but added “this did not happen”.

The Congress nominee, a supporter of dual citizenship for Goans who have opted for Portuguese passports, was speaking in South Goa.

Referring to his conversation with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Mr Fernandes said he had told him, “When Goa was liberated in the year 1961, the Indian Constitution was forced upon us.” Mr Fernandes was then part of an NGO, ‘Goencho Away’, which was pressing for dual citizenship for Goans who have opted for Portuguese passports.

“We (during a meeting with Mr Gandhi in a hotel near Panaji) raised 12 demands before Mr Gandhi, and one of them was about (granting) dual citizenship. Mr Gandhi asked me whether the demand was constitutional. We said no,” he told the gathering.

Mr Fernandes said the Congress MP told them the demand would not be considered if it was not constitutional.

“I explained to him that the Indian Constitution came into force on January 26, 1950. When Goa was liberated from the Portuguese rule in 1961, you (referring to then central government) forced the Constitution on us. We were not included in it,” he said.

Mr Fernandes said he recalled a speech of Mr Gandhi’s grandfather (PM Nehru) in which he said that post-liberation Goa will decide its own destiny.

“But our destiny was decided by someone else,” he opined.

Chief Minister Sawant took to social media platform X to hit out at the Congress candidate and his party.

“I am appalled by the comments from Congress’s South Goa candidate claiming the Indian Constitution was forcefully imposed upon Goans. Our freedom fighters believed wholeheartedly that Goa is an inseparable part of India. Congress delayed Goa’s liberation by 14 years. Now, their candidate dares to undermine the Indian Constitution?” the BJP leader said in the post.

Mr Sawant asked the opposition party to stop what he called its politics of “breaking up” the country.

“Congress must stop this reckless Bharat Todo politics immediately. Congress is a threat to our democracy,” the Chief Minister added.

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