THE BJP-LED post-poll alliance led by Manohar Parrikar won the floor test in Goa Thursday with 22 MLAs standing up in the House to tilt the vote of confidence in its favour. The Congress, which had 17 MLAs before voting started, suffered the embarrassment of one of them, Viswajit Rane, abstaining from voting during the test, which ended 22-16 in favour of the new state government. Rane took the oath along with 38 other MLAs, excluding Parrikar and pro-tem speaker Siddharth Kuncalienkar, but left the House soon after.
Speaking to The Indian Express later, Rane, son of veteran Congress leader and former Goa chief minister Pratapsingh Rane, said that he has resigned from the party over the “disgusting failure of the Congress in Goa”.Criticising the party’s central observers, particularly AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh, Rane said the decision to resign was taken after he heard that Singh had alleged that he had sided with the BJP and was seen having tea with Parrikar at a hotel.
“That was a huge statement he made. I decided then that I will quit the party and abstain from voting. Such statements cannot be tolerated. In the whole campaign, we worked as one force fighting BJP and all non-secular fronts. We have worked hard to reach here, and this absolute lethargy by Singh and the central observers, who came here, was shocking,” said Rane.
Significantly, the NCP’s Churchill Alemao, too, stood in favour of the Parrikar government, promising support from outside. The NCP later threatened action under the anti-defection law against Churchill asking him to respond within seven days on his decision to support the BJP without seeking the central leadership’s consent.
\After days of speculation over government formation, the first day of the new assembly began with Kuncalienkar, elected from Panjim, administering the oath to the MLAs.
Soon, the floor test was called. A minute later, Congress MLA and senior-most Opposition leader Pratapsingh Rane asked the Speaker if the house was full and if votes taken in the absence of an MLA would be against the Constitution. His question went unheard as Kuncalienkar asked everyone supporting the government to stand, leading to the show of strength in favour of Parrikar’s team.
Later, standing on the steps of the assembly, Parrikar said he would be “the first Chief Minister to run a coalition government smoothly in Goa”. “In fact, we will teach everyone,” he said.
Parrikar also said that the BJP would soon send a legal notice for defamation to the Congress for all the allegations of “money power” levelled by the AICC leadership over the last three days.
Later, in the first official press conference of the new government, Parrikar announced that one portfolio each would be given to every minister by Friday evening. He said that the position of deputy chief minister and the Rajya Sabha seat would be decided by the “coalition government”.
With the budget session to begin soon, Parrikar said the priority of the government was to begin work at the soonest. “I have not touched any important file. Policy decisions will have to be taken by the coalition government and hence, I have only cleared some routine files,” he said.
The new government has also fixed April 14 as the deadline to arrive at a “common minimum programme drafted by the collective ideology of the coalition government”, said Parrikar. “It will look into aspects of Goa’s development and the medium for generating employment in the state,” he said.
Vijai Sardesai, leader of Goa Forward, which fought the election on an anti-BJP plank before offering support to Parrikar, said he remained committed to the government’s vision. Asked about his party’s change in stand, he said, “The past is past. The future is only Goa first.” Parrikar intervened to say, “Goa First and Fast Forward”.
At the Chief Minister’s office, Parrikar was far more relaxed as he referred to a local dish, which uses all kinds of vegetables, to say that his government will be like the “Khatkate\, only richer”.
Repeatedly taking digs at the Congress, Parrikar said, “They didn’t have the numbers on day one, or when they went to court. Even when they went to the floor test today, they had one less than 17. We have succeeded in debunking Digvijaya Singh’s claims.”
His harshest words, too, were reserved for the Congress. “One needs to ask the Digvijayas on all these allegations. The problem with the Congress is that there is no common leadership. They need to stand together. They are jittery. I want to know the maths behind the number of suitcases that have gone out of Goa and not just the numbers that have come in, as he alleges,” he said.
While the next test for Parrikar is to get elected to the assembly within six months, he said “There are many choices. I will stand when the time comes. For now, the budget is the next priority.”
Digvijaya Singh, meanwhile, said he would update Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi over the weekend on the party’s situation in Goa.
Providing his version of the events leading to the floor test, Singh said, “To tell the truth, three Independents and the NCP were with us. Everyone is saying we should have sent the letter that day (March 11) itself. Tell me, where has it happened that a party, which stakes claim, sends a letter of support without electing its new leader. It was all happening between 4 pm and 7 pm on March 12. On the other side, (Goa Forward leader) Vijai Sardesai was asking for Digambar Kamat as the chief minister candidate. We wanted to know (Goa Congress chief) Luizinho’s reply as he had good support, too, and had worked equally hard. He gave his confirmation by evening and things were comfortable.”
Singh said that “a lot of things changed” by the morning of March 12.
“The Independent Rohan Khaunte’s phone had become unreachable. We then found that even Sardesai wasn’t answering our calls. We were left with two Independents and the NCP. Things again went wrong in two hours. We don’t want to take names but no one can deny that money had changed hands,” alleged Singh.