Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar passed away at his private residence on Sunday night after a long battle with a pancreatic ailment. Parrikar’s demise brings the curtains down on a distinguished leader who served as a four-time CM of the coastal state as well as the Defence minister under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His death has also reduced the current strength of the Assembly to 36. The state Legislative Assembly has 40 seats and Congress is the single largest party with 14 seats.
On the other hand, the ruling BJP has lost two of its MLAs in the last two months. The first was Francis D’Souza who passed away at a hospital in the US after undergoing surgery for cancer. He was an MLA from Mapusa constituency. And the second is CM Parrikar who represented the Panaji seat in the state Legislative Assembly. After their demise, the BJP’s strength has now reduced to 12 from 14.
Late last night, the BJP’s central leadership deployed senior leader Nitin Gadkari to Panaji to hold talks with the MLAs and allies to reach a consensus on who will become the next CM. According to Deputy Speaker and BJP MLA Michael Lobo, the party continues to enjoy support of three independent MLAs and regional parties and that a decision will be taken soon.
“I strongly feel that all alliance partners and Independents will stay with the BJP,” he said.
Notably, Lobo also informed that Sudin Dhavalikar of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party has expressed desire to become the Chief Minister but this was not acceptable to the saffron party. “Sudin Dhavalikar wants to become the Chief Minister. Lobo said that he has sacrificed many times by supporting BJP. “He has put forward his demand but BJP will not agree to that,” he said.
Given that the current strength of Goa Legislative Assembly is reduced to 36, a party needs support of 19 MLAs to form the government. The Congress had won 17 seats in the Assembly polls held in 2014 but its current strength is 14.
Despite winning 17 seats in 2017, the Congress couldn’t form the government in the state after three Independent MLAs, three MLAs each of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Goa Forward Party extended support to the BJP. The parties agreed to support the BJP only if Manohar Parrikar, who was then the Defence Minister in Modi Cabinet, was brought back as CM.
The Congress first suffered a jolt just a few days after the result was announced. Its senior MLA Vishwajit Rane defected to the BJP. He was later re-elected as a BJP MLA and the BJP’s tally was up by one to 14. He was also given a cabinet berth in Parrikar’s government. Nearly after two years, the party suffered another jolt when two of its MLAs quit the party, thus reducing its strength to 14 from 16. The two MLAs who quit the Congress are Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte.
In the elections held in 2017, the BJP had bagged 13 seats. However, its current strength stands at 12.
According to reports, Gadkari reached Panaji at around 1 am and held overnight parleys with alliance partners, but there is no clarity yet on who will become the next Chief Minister. There are several alliance partners who are believed to have thrown their hat in the ring after Parrikar’s demise.
On the other hand, the Congress party sensed an opportunity and late last night staked claim to form a government. This was the second time in the last 48 hours when the party moved a letter to Governor House seeking an invitation from Mridula Sinha to form the government. However, the Congress is yet to listen from the Governor’s House.
In case the BJP leadership fails to reach a consensus with its partners and Governor’s Rule is imposed in the coastal state, the Congress is believed to be preparing to take the battle to the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, at Miramar in Panaji, the beach bed is being cleared for the last rites of Parrikar which is scheduled at 5 pm. Several top leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah are expected to reach Panaji today afternoon. From the BJP’s camp, MLAs are looking at two candidates Speaker Pramod Sawant and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane.
While Sawant is known to be from the cadre and considered as someone who had ear of Parrikar, Rane enjoys the support of Goa Forward and independent MLAs.
The other names that are doing the rounds include those of Union Minister Shripad Naik and Vinay Tendulkar. Both are currently Rajya Sabha MPs. Reports even say that a few BJP and Independent MLAs have suggested the BJP leadership to make a non-MLA the next CM.
“Let’s continue the talks after he goes” said Vinay Tendulkar, who is also the Goa BJP chief.