Speaker Pramod Sawant is BJP choice for Goa Chief Minister

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Published: March 19, 2019 1:12:03 AM

Moving swiftly to snuff out Congress attempts to wrest power in Goa following the death of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, the BJP Monday decided on Assembly Speaker Pramod Sawant as the new Chief Minister of the state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman with the family of Manohar Parrikar in Panaji, Monday. (Image: PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman with the family of Manohar Parrikar in Panaji, Monday. (Image: PTI)

Moving swiftly to snuff out Congress attempts to wrest power in Goa following the death of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, the BJP Monday decided on Assembly Speaker Pramod Sawant as the new Chief Minister of the state.

Party sources indicated that Sawant could be sworn in Monday night and would have two allies as Deputy Chief Ministers — Goa Forward Party chief Vijai Sardesai and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP)’s Sudin Dhavalikar. Sources said Dhavalikar was still to give his letter of support for Sawant as Chief Minister.

Around the time most in Goa were heading to Miramar beach for Parrikar’s last rites, men from Bicholim and Sanqelium, where Sawant holds sway, were at the gates of Raj Bhavan.

An Ayurvedic teacher, Sawant is a second-term MLA. His critics say his biggest advantage is the fact that he keeps to himself and gets work done without much fanfare, a style which brought him to Parrikar’s notice. An RSS member since his childhood in Kotambi village, and later a Yuva BJP leader, Sawant is seen as the “most obvious choice” by many.

When his health deteriorated, it was Parrikar who asked Sawant to do all state duties, including hoisting the flag on national days.

And for most part of Sunday, Sawant’s confidence showed even as he stood in a corner at Hotel Mandovi along with other MLAs, awaiting instructions from the party high command. “The other advantage that cannot be ignored that he has a huge support base, with the entire family invested in the party, along with his wife Sulakshana, who is a teacher in Bicholim and BJP Mahila wing president of Goa,” said a Bicholim supporter outside Raj Bhavan.

The delay in announcement, sources said, was not over the party choice, but because of the chaos on the portfolios and shaping the “contours of the alliance”, again a phrase shared by Sardesai in the early hours of Monday, after they were leaving the Hotel Cidade de Goa.

Parrikar’s government had the support of the MGP, Goa Forward, and the Independents. The current numbers in the Assembly do not appear to favour either party. The House strength is down to 36 — with the deaths of Parrikar on Sunday and Francis D’Souza in February, and with two Congress members having resigned. In this, the Congress has the largest chunk of 14 MLAs; the MGP and Goa Forward Party have 3 MLAs each, the NCP has 1 MLA, and there are three Independents.

That leaves the BJP with 12 MLAs; however, one of them, Pandurang Madkaikar is in hospital and is unlikely to be able to come to the Assembly for a possible vote. This is the reason the Congress has been saying it has 14 MLAs to the BJP’s 11. Sawant has only a casting vote.

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