Party with three MLAs that campaigned on anti-saffron platform will now join hands to bring the BJP back to power.
Panaji: A day after the Bharatiya Janata Party was convincingly shown the door in Goa, the party has managed to subvert the electoral verdict and return to power again with the support of the Goa Forward (GF) party, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and some independents.
Late on Sunday night, according to PTI, Goa governor Mridula Sinha appointed Manohar Parrikar – currently defence minister of India – as chief minister of the state and gave him 15 days to prove his majority in the assembly.
Working overtime to muscle his way to power and undo a humiliating result for which he was mostly responsible as the chief campaigner and strategist, defence minister Manohar Parrikar managed to move the last hurdle in his way by capturing the support of the ambitious Goa Forward MLA Vijai Sardessai and two other members who held the key to government formation.
Parrikar is expected to resign as raksha mantri and return to Goa – which he once ran for seven years – as head of the motley new grouping which could be sworn in as early as Tuesday. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, who camped out in Goa from Saturday night to facilitate negotiations with the MGP given his good relations with party leader Sudin Dhavlikar, was among those who went to Raj Bhavan late Sunday to stake a claim on behalf of the BJP to government formation.
Goa Forward, whose leaders had claimed the Congress would be their “natural choice” to ally with in government, has virtually split over the decision. The party’s president, Prabhakar Timble, resigned on Sunday night over the development. One member told this correspondent that Sardessai walked off with the other two MLAs, even as discussions were in progress on the terms being sought from both the Congress and BJP. The party had several informal meetings with both national parties through Sunday, they said.
The BJP’s decision to lay claim to power and the GF’s move to align with the saffron group has caused disbelief among voters who feel short-changed after the rejection of the saffron party in the assembly election. What rankled most with Goa Forward members too is that the nascent local party formed only recently drew its sustenance from its strong anti-BJP stand. Sardessai in fact often claimed he had been a far stronger single-handed opposition to the BJP government than the whole of the Congress legislature wing put together. A former Congressman, the 47-year-old politician fell out with the Congress, more particularly Goa PCC chief Luizinho Faleiro, after being denied a party ticket in the 2012 election. That move, ironically, helped him win from Fatorda constituency for the first time as an independent in the last election. But the enmity between the two continued and even caused the pre-poll alliance between the Congress and GF to fall apart after Faleiro’s backhand move to field a Congress candidate against Sardessai.
Late on Saturday night, it emerged that Parrikar was making a concerted move to grab power. By Sunday morning, the BJP had floated the buzz that the party’s newly elected MLAs, now down to a mere 13 to the Congress’ 17 in a 40-member House, were in favour of the defence minister’s return to Goa to take over the reins of power. Parrikar himself lost no time in making contact with all the non-Congress MLAs to try and shore up support. With its numbers as low as 13 – a loss of 8 seats from its 2012 tally – the BJP needs the backing of almost all the rest of the non-Congress MLAs, which means Goa Forward, MGP, NCP and independents who collectively hold 10 seats.
Parrikar’s intentions were clear soon after the verdict itself, when he went into a verbal contortion trying to explain to the media why he felt the mandate was not against the government but “individual MLAs” – a rather curious explanation, given that the outgoing chief minister, Laxmikant Parsekar was himself trounced in this election. Though Parrikar said he “accepted the verdict of the people”, he also put out the theory that the fractured mandate and the BJP’s high vote share – with 32.5%, it polled 4% more than the Congress – somehow gave it a right to make a bid for power by “working something out” with the two local parties and the independents. “If the party president (Amit Shah) has said that the BJP is forming the government in the state, then definitely we are going to form the government,” he told the Times of India.
The Congress was slow getting off the block, and was huddled over the selection of the CLP leader when news of the unfolding developments broke. Some party MLAs blamed AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh for not taking a quick decision the night before that would have roped in GF’s support.
On his part, Digivijay Singh lashed out at the BJP for “hijacking” the popular mandate. “It is absolutely wrong on the part of the BJP to grab power when the mandate was given to the Congress by the voters (by virtue of being the single largest party),” Singh was quoted by PTI as saying. As the single largest party, the Congress had the “first right as well as the popular mandate” to form government, which has been “hijacked” by Parrikar, he said, accusing the new chief minister of bringing down “the morality of politics in the country.”