Late on Sunday, Goa Governor Mridula Sinha invited the BJP, led by Manohar Parrikar, to form the next government, capping several hours of hectic negotiations in the BJP camp. The party, which won 13 seats in the Goa Assembly, pipped the Congress to the post by submitting a list of 21 MLAs and staking claim to form the government.
While the Congress, which is the single largest party with 17 seats, continued to hold meetings with AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh until 5 pm to decide on their leader, the BJP camp had already made that decision — that Parrikar would be their legislature party leader — by 5 am on Sunday. At 7 pm, Parrikar, left for Raj Bhavan with 21 MLAs — 13 of its own, three of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), three of the Goa Forward and two Independents — and submitted their letters of support to the Governor. NCP’s Churchill Alemao was also among those present though his signed letter of support was yet to reach the party until late Sunday.
The Congress cried foul, accusing the BJP of “murdering” democracy in Goa and calling Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar the “villain behind what has transpired”. “Governor Mridula Sinha has appointed Manohar Parrikar, the leader of the Goa BJP legislature party, as the chief minister of Goa,” Rupesh Kumar Thakur, secretary to the Governor, said in a press note issued on Sunday night.
Through Saturday night and early Sunday morning, senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari held meetings with non-BJP parties at Hotel Taj Vivanta. On Sunday, addressing the media outside the beachside resort of Cidade De Goa, where Gadkari later shifted, MGP’s Sudin Dhavalikar said, “The Congress has not approached us so far. We waited to hear from them. We are now looking to support BJP, provided Manohar Parrikar is made Chief Minister.”
After the MLAs returned from Raj Bhavan, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari held a press conference, where he said Parrikar, who is now Defence Minister, will tender his resignation from the Union Cabinet after the date of swearing-in is decided.
Parrikar too spoke, thanking Gadkari for “coming down to Goa at such short notice as party observer” and “solving the matter within 16 hours – that itself is a record as it includes the night hours”. The BJP camp had swung into action soon after the poll results, with outgoing chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar tendering his resignation at 5.15 pm Saturday. Soon after, all the leaders locked themselves at the BJP headquarters. While Parrikar initially held meetings at the headquarters, soon, arrangements were made to shift the “entire apparatus” to Taj Vivanta.
“It was that simple. No one slept,” says a BJP leader privy to the meetings. Phone chargers were brought in, phones were worked, food was left stale on the tables, and a string of meetings were held in two hotel rooms at Taj Vivanta. First, calls were made to all BJP MLAs, assuring them that all efforts were on to form the government. With Nitin Gadkari expected to reach post midnight, the first task was to reach out to the MGP, Goa Forward, NCP’s Churchill Alemao and the three Independents. “We had to do that before Gadkari’s phone landed in Goa’s tarmac,” said a BJP member, who says he shuttled thrice between the BJP headquarters and the hotel on several errands.
Nitin Gadkari finally walked into Taj Vivanta at 1.30 am – with a straight face. “If he had any doubts, he didn’t show,” said a BJP party official. The first person they won over was Vijai Sardesai of Goa Forward. By 4 am, NCP’s Alemao had also expressed his consent.
Everyone left the hotel at 5 am – after the negotiations were final. The day then saw hectic work at the BJP office with “letter drafts” going “back and forth”. The day also saw all the losing candidates, including Parsekar and six ministers, walking into the BJP office.
Meanwhile at the Congress office, Digvijay Singh told the press at noon that the phone calls from their end are still alive though “nothing has been offered, We don’t do horse trading.” The BJP party waited for the letters to reach – with the BJP spokesperson confirming that while Sardesai of Goa Forward and Dhavalikar of MGP had given theirs, it took some time for Independent MLA Rohan Khaunte’s to arrive. The third Independent they tried to reach could not be contacted as he was allegedly being held “at the house of a winning Congress candidate’s son.”
With Khaunte’s letter finally arriving, the party called all the MLAs to Cidade De Goa, where Gadkari had shifted by then. In a show of support and strength, the MLAs came in separate vehicles at the same time – at 6:45 – and walked straight to Gadkari’s room. They then left with Parrikar for Raj Bhavan.