OF the 10 Congress MLAs in Goa who jumped ship, three were sworn-in as ministers in Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s cabinet on Saturday. A lone BJP legislator and former Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo was also sworn-in, bringing the Cabinet’s strength to 12 ministers again.
The ceremony followed an order passed by Governor Mridula Sinha, which revoked powers of Independent MLA Rohan Khaunte, and Goa Forward MLAs Vijai Sardesai, Vinod Paliencar and Jayesh Salgaonkar, as they had ceased to be members of the Council of Ministers.
Sardesai, removed as the Deputy CM, announced his exit from the NDA — he “regretted” joining the BJP-led alliance, and said he will now sit on the Opposition benches.
The two Deputy CMs are Manohar Azgaonkar, who had split from the Maharashtra Gomantak Party to join the BJP, and Chandrakant Kavalekar, former Leader of Opposition from the Congress who defected along with nine others to join BJP on Wednesday.
In what is being seen as a somewhat surprising development, Jennifer Monserratte was inducted as the Revenue Minister, while many had believed that her husband, Anatasio Monserrate, would get a look-in. Anatasio, has chosen to take a board position in the government for development of Panaji, the state capital from where he defeated a BJP candidate on a Congress ticket in the recent by-elections.
Seen beaming through the afternoon was Kavalekar, who in the last two years has tried unsuccessfully to get an appointment, or “even an entry” to the Governor’s House, as he tried to stake claim to form a government against the BJP’s numbers. On Saturday, soon after he was sworn-in, Kavalekar waited for Sawant to give the first media interviews — he kept repeating, “anything I now say will be after the CM has spoken.”
At the press meet later, Kavalekar said, “When we went to Delhi, the (BJP) national working president (J P Nadda) and national president (Amit Shah) gave us such a welcome that we really felt good. We made a group of 10 people and went to the BJP, saying that our constituencies need development and they welcomed us. We are confident we have taken a good decision.”
Jennifer, asked about working under a new party ideology, said, “Like everything new, I will take time to adjust to this new change.”
Asked about the decision to drop allies and do a late-evening coup of Congress MLAs, CM Sawant said, “I don’t want to get into details. This decision has been taken to give Goans a good administration. This decision has been taken by taking the central leadership into confidence.. We have inducted Kavlekar, Michael Lobo, Filipe Neri and Jennifer Monserrate. According to instructions from the party’s central leadership, we have dropped four ministers.
“This means the BJP government has a full majority and a party of true Goans.”
An hour before the swearing-in, the dropped ministers — Goa Forward’s Vijai Sardesai, Vinod Paliencar, Jayesh Salgaonkar and Rohan Khanute — staged a protest at the samadhi of late chief minister Manohar Parrikar, next to the site where he was cremated by the Miramar beach, and now a proposed site for his memorial.
Sardesai walked into the beach at 2.05 pm, around the time for low tide on Saturday, and stood below a huge group photograph of Goa Forward with late Parrikar, titled “Aami Uttor Rakhalem (We honoured our word)”. Flanked by the other ministers dropped, he said, “This is political harakiri. There are systematically dismantling Parrikar’s legacy. They did this one one clean sweep.”
Stating that attempts are being made to wipe out Parrikar’s legacy, he said, “Parrikar died twice. He died physically on March 17 and today he died politically.”
Sardesai claimed that he had a “standing offer” from the “other side” to overthrow the government earlier but chose to stay an NDA ally, as he had given his word to an ailing Parrikar when he last met the late CM.
He also said Goa Forward will be a “watchdog” for the people in the Assembly.
After taking oath of office, Michael Lobo said, “This was total misuse of legacy. Sardesai never visited that site (Parrikar’s memorial) for two months, and suddenly he remembers Parrikar? The people know that he was sacked since he was misusing his powers and taking wrong decisions on land the Town and Country Planning minister. We have no more comments.”
The Assembly session is set to start on Monday, and Chief Minister Sawant is expected to issue orders for the new ministries by late Sunday.