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How BJP sealed Goa power deal

Last-minute negotiations by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president Amit Shah and Union minister Nitin Gadkari, and an assurance that the portfolios of the ministers in the Goa cabinet would not be changed in the new regime, ensured that the party retained power in the state after the death of former chief minister Manohar Parrikar, BJP leaders familiar with the developments said on Tuesday.

The negotiations, which began hours after Parrikar’s death on Sunday evening and continued for over 24 hours, ended in former Goa assembly Speaker Pramod Sawant, 45, being sworn in as chief minister a little before 2am on Tuesday. Two new deputy chief ministers – Sudin Dhavalikar of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Vijai Sardesai of the Goa Forward Party — and eight other existing ministers were also sworn in.

Governor Mridula Sinha has asked Sawant to prove his majority in the House on Wednesday morning.

In hectic parleys between the BJP, MGP, GFP and three independent MLAs in the Goa assembly, it was first announced that the swearing in ceremony would take place at 11pm on Monday. But the plan was pushed back at the last minute as Dhavalikar and Sardesai, who had by then been assured of the deputy CM post, brought up the issue of freedom to function, according to a senior BJP leader aware of the developments who asked not to be named. He added that Shah first met Dhavilakar at a hotel and assuaged his doubts, and then spoke to Sardesai. It was a little before midnight that the BJP was able to secure letters of support from the MGP, the GFP and the independents, after which they approached the governor to stake a claim. One of the issues over which a consensus was not being reached earlier on Monday was the choice of chief minister, with the GFP and two of the three independent MLAs Rohan Khaunte and Govind Gaude asking for the BJP’s Vishwajit Rane to be appointed as CM. Rane joined the BJP from the Congress last year – a reason why most of the 11 other sitting BJP MLAs were not keen on his candidature.The MGP believed that its leader, Dhavalikar, 62, should be picked as the CM because of his seniority and the party’s long ties with the BJP.

While this was going on, Dhavalikar was being pursued by the Congress — with 14 MLAs the single-largest party in the 40-member assembly whose effective strength at the moment is 36 — to switch to their side. The Congress had already given a letter to the governor staking claim to form the government on Sunday night.

Even as leaders from the BJP tried to convince Dhavalikar that joining the Congress would prove futile as they would not have numbers to form the government, they began working on the other two MGP legislators, Manohar Ajgaonkar and Deepak Prabhu Pauskar, said a second BJP leader aware of the negotiations. On Tuesday evening, Ajgaonkar and Pauskar told Dhavalikar that they would stay with the BJP, which under the anti-defection law would prevent him to switch sides. At this point, Dhavalikar was again offered deputy chief minister’s post; he accepted, and that clinched the deal, said the second BJP leader.

The first BJP leader said Gadkari’s experience of handling Goa politics made a big difference during the negotiations. Even in 2017, after the BJP failed to get a majority in the state assembly polls, Gadkari flew in to help the party cobble up an alliance, under Parikkar’s leadership even though the Congress had emerged as the largest party in the polls.

The two BJP leaders said that the fear that President’s Rule may be imposed in absence of a consensus also played is role in the negotiations. MGP has decided to contest one of the two Lok Sabha seats in the upcoming 2019 polls against Subhash Shirodkar who resigned as MLA and defected to the BJP. Dhavalikar remained unavailable for comment. “It always happens in politics. In Goa it happens all the more,” Vijai Sardesai of GFP said when asked about the protracted negotiations.

First Published:
Mar 20, 2019 00:03 IST

Source: HindustanTimes