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10 Goa Congress dissidents join BJP, reshuffle on cards

Ten Goa lawmakers who split from the Congress formally joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Delhi on Thursday, ending the saffron party’s dependence on allies and independents to run the government.

The 10 legislators, who will not attract censure under the anti-defection law because they form two-thirds of the Congress in the state, were inducted into the BJP in the presence of working president JP Nadda and chief minister Pramod Sawant.

They are expected to meet Union home minister before returning to Goa on Friday night. Sawant, state party president Vinay Tendulkar and party’s organisation secretary Satish Dhond met Shah.

A senior leader said on condition of anonymity that a rejig in the council of ministers will happen soon to accommodate some of the 10 MLAs. Goa currently has 12 ministers, including Sawant, and three of them are from the Goa Forward party and two are independent MLAs.

With 10 Congress MLAs joining the BJP, its strength in the 40-member assembly has gone up to 27 while the Congress’s has reduced to five. The BJP now does not need support of the Goa Forward or independent MLAs .

“The central leadership will take a call on the reshuffle of the ministry,” Sawant said . “We did no poach the Congress MLAs. They have joined the BJP to strengthen our effort for development of the state.”

Chandrakant Kavlekar, who was the leader of the opposition in Goa, said all Congress MLAs wanted development and it was no possible with them being in opposition. Leader of Goa Forward Party Vijai Sardesai said the BJP had kept him in the dark about the development. “My role in this political upheaval is zero. I have nothing much to say…I have been given no indications as to the composition of this present government, this cabinet or otherwise. We are waiting to be told,” Sardesai said.

The 10 MLAs might stabilise the state government that faced some turmoil after the 2017 assembly election returned a hung verdict with the Congress emerging as the single largest party with 17 MLAs and the BJP getting 13. The BJP formed a government by securing support of the Goa Forward Party, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and independents. They agreed to support the BJP on the condition that then defence minister Manohar Parrikar returns to Goa as chief minister.

After Parrikar took ill and his condition deteriorated last year, the BJP began weaning away lawmakers from the Congress to keep its government afloat. Sawant dropped MGP leader Sudin Dhavlikar from his cabinet in March, within five days of inducting him as deputy chief minister. Two of the three MGP MLAs then merged with the BJP.

The Congress’s hopes of forming the government by winning by-polls to four assembly seats were dashed in May. It was able to win only one seat. The BJP won the remaining three.

This is not the first time Goa has seen such a political development. In 2000, Parrikar got then Congress leader of opposition Ravi Naik and seven other legislators to “merge” with the BJP to help him become chief minister. In return, he made Ravi Naik his deputy. The BJP had 10 legislators but secured the support of eight Congressmen who were in the opposition as well as another eight MLAs including independents and members of the Goa Rajiv Congress.

In 2002 after the assembly election the BJP won 17 seats and the Congress 16 seats, Parrikar relied on the support of the United Goans Democratic Party which had four MLAs including Monserrate as well as Filipe Neri Rodrigues who was then an independent MLA.

First Published:
Jul 11, 2019 23:17 IST

Source: HindustanTimes