Goa elections 2017: Manohar Parrikar gets CM’s chair; floor test hangs in balance

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New Delhi | Published: March 15, 2017 2:12:14 AM

Turning down the Congress’ plea to stay the swearing in of BJP’s chief minister candidate Manohar Parrikar, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Goa governor Mridula Sinha to conduct a floor test in the state Assembly on Thursday for the saffron party to prove its majority.

Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the BJP, argued that the governor was convinced that Manohar Parrikar had the support of three Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party legislators and three from Goa Forward Party.

Turning down the Congress’ plea to stay the swearing in of BJP’s chief minister candidate Manohar Parrikar, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Goa governor Mridula Sinha to conduct a floor test in the state Assembly on Thursday for the saffron party to prove its majority. Parrikar was later in the evening sworn in as the new Goa chief minister. The swearing-in ceremony was attended by top leaders of BJP, including Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari and Venkaiah Naidu.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar, while dismissing the Congress party’s petition challenging the Goa governor’s decision to invite the Parrikar-led BJP legislature party to form a government in the state, said: “You (Congress) don’t have the numbers and that’s why you didn’t claim to form government… You haven’t demonstrated before the governor that number is in your favour.”

It also rejected an assurance by the Narendra Modi government to have the floor test as soon as possible.

“We won’t accept as soon as possible. It has to be forthwith,” it said while directing all constitutional authorities including the Election Commission to complete the formalities by Wednesday to have the floor test on Thursday at 11 am. The senior-most member of the 40-member House will be the pro-tem speaker and the House will be constituted before that.

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During the hearing, the judges also observed that the Congress should have “run” to the Governor immediately after the results were declared to form the government. Besides, the Congress had not made Parikkar a party in the petition.

“You cannot have an order behind his back,” the judges said, adding that the Congress party had not based its pleadings with hard evidence on the number of legislators supporting it.

The Congress party got 17 seats in the recently concluded elections in Goa while BJP managed to win 13 seats. However, the saffron party claims to have support from the elected MLAs of MGP, the GFP and independents, takings its tally to 21.

Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the BJP, argued that the governor was convinced that Parikkar had the support of three Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) legislators and three from Goa Forward Party (GFP). In addition, there were two independents who supported BJP. Therefore, BJP had 21 legislators, which formed the majority in the House and that’s why the governor had announced floor test within 15 days.

While senior counsel and Congress spokesperson AM Singhvi raised several constitutional issues during the hearing, the court concluded by saying that all these can be disposed of with a “simple order” to hold the floor test as early as possible.

Singhvi argued that the governor had violated constitutional norms by not calling the single-largest party winning the elections, which is the Congress.

The governor showed extreme hurry on the night when the election results were announced and named Parrikkar as the chief minister. Congress was not even contacted on phone, thereby denying it an opportunity to show its strength, he said, adding that this was against the mandate of the people.

The governor played a “cat and mouse game” by hurrying to call the second-largest party, the counsel said, adding that it was subversion of democracy, which is one of the basic structures of the Constitution.

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