In the political turmoil that followed the death of Manohar Parrikar, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party chief Sudin Dhavalikar was the man of the moment — being wooed by the BJP to prop up the government under a new Chief Minister with three MGP MLAs, including himself. But Dhavalikar took his time — it was said that he had asked for the CM’s chair.
In the end, he signed up as Deputy Chief Minister. But just five days later, he has lost his post, all his portfolios, and his MLAs.
In a stunning turn of events, hours after the last of the urns containing the ashes of Parrikar were immersed in lakes and rivers across Goa, the BJP got Speaker Michael Lobo to open his office at 1 am Wednesday. They had got two MGP MLAs to split and merge with BJP. And by afternoon, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant dropped Dhavalikar from the council of ministers — he had held the plum PWD portfolio among others.
Dhavalikar called it “midnight dacoity by chowkidars” and “a national party wiping out a regional party”. In response, Sawant accused him of breaching an understanding by putting up his own candidates in the three bypolls around the corner. The cracks that were visible after Parrikar’s death were now split wide open.
The numbers summed up the story: With the addition of Deepak Pauskar, who is now a minister, and Manohar Ajgaonkar, the BJP is on a par with the Congress with 14 MLAs, with one coalition partner in Goa Forward and three independents.
Speaking to The Indian Express, BJP state president Vinay Tendulkar said: “This was inevitable. Dhavalikar had promised Parrikar that his party would not contest against us in the bypolls. They repeated this during talks with (Union Minister) Nitin Gadkari (after Parrikar’s death). But Sudin’s brother Deepak continues to campaign for the bypoll in Shiroda against the BJP, even though we are coalition partners.”
Tendulkar claimed the two MGP MLAs “approached us stating that they want a stable government”. “We had asked the Dhavalikar brothers repeatedly to withdraw from contesting against the BJP… You cannot give your word to Nitin Gadkari and continue to contest against BJP,” he said.
Addressing a press conference, CM Sawant said: “He is not following the conditions laid during our alliance… the Common Minimum Programme. I have spoken to them personally, that we will follow the common programme and according to the programme, they were not supposed to contest Shiroda.”
Kicking off the latest sequence of events, the two MGP MLAs submitted a letter to the Speaker last night stating that they “constitute 2/3rds of the members of the legislature party” and that the “merger shall be deemed to have taken place”. By 2.30 am, the Speaker had issued the order.
The Opposition Congress described the move as a “threat” to all allies of the BJP. But the two rebel MLAs were clear that “the decision had to be taken”. “MGP grew as a Bahujan party and he (Sudin) was expected to take us all along. I am a Dalit and I would have respected that. Here, it has become a party which bends to the needs of his brother… action was taken against me and the other MLA on various matters by the two. He never had time for us and no meetings ever took place,” said Ajgaonkar. “There were efforts to topple the government, too. They (MGP) wanted to form a government with the Congress,” he claimed.
At the centre of it all, Dhavalikar remained defiant. “Just because the MLAs have left, the party is not finished. Our workers are still there. The split is not legally sound and we are in the process of filing for disqualification. But withdrawing support for the government has not been decided yet,” he said.