Three former Congress MLAs who switched sides to BJP were sworn in as ministers in the Goa Cabinet on Saturday. Michael Lobo, who stepped down as deputy Speaker of the Assembly earlier in the day, was also sworn in as the minister.
The latest move comes a day after Chief Minister Pramod Sawant asked three Goa Forward Party (GFP) leaders and an Independent lawmaker to resign.
Apart from Lobo, Chandrakant Kavlekar, Philip Nery Rodrigues, Jennifer Monserratte, who had quit the Congress and joined the BJP Wednesday, were sworn in as ministers at Raj Bhavan at 3 pm.
With Congress struggling to stay afloat in Karnataka after the resignation of 16 coalition MLAs, a ripple effect took place in Goa, with 10 MLAs of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) merging with the BJP. The fresh move has increased the strength of the saffron party to 27 in the 40-member House. Congress is now reduced to just five.
Rift in BJP-GFP alliance
Strengthened by newly found support, the BJP is moving ahead as it dropped the GFP MLAs from Cabinet who had been key in the formation of the government. On Friday, the Chief Minister had asked three GFP MLAs and Independent lawmaker Rohan Khaunte to resign from his ministry as he would be inducting four new ministers.
Former Leader of the Opposition in the House, Chandrakant Kavlekar, will be the new deputy CM, Sawant confirmed, replacing Vijai Sardesai of the GFP. Meanwhile, Sardesai whose party no longer holds any cabinet post told The Indian Express: “We will now be the opposition!”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sardesai had said, “I am at sea with regards to what this exercise fulfils and I fail to understand what was the insecurity behind this decision.” The first impact of the development will be felt during the monsoon session of the Assembly, which is slated to begin on July 15, Sardesai added. “We were told Michael Lobo (deputy Speaker) wanted to be made a minister. The name of a newly elected MLA was also given. I was asked to drop my cadre. I called (BJP president) Amit Shah as he knows the ground realities and the sacrifices we made in 2017,” he said.
The chief minister has clarified that the decision to drop the GFP members from the cabinet was taken on the direction of the saffron party’s central leadership. It is to be noted that the MLAs after formally joining the BJP had met acting president Amit Shah.
Who are the new Cabinet entrants?
Chandrakant Kavlekar, Philip Nery Rodrigues, Atanasio Monserratte, who had joined the BJP on Wednesday and Michael Lobo, who resigned as deputy speaker, were sworn in as ministers at Raj Bhavan in the afternoon.
The portfolios likely to be given to the defecting Congress MLAs include Town and Country Planning — held by Sardesai — along with Revenue, and Information Technology, River Navigation and Water Resources, Housing, and Agriculture.
This is the second cabinet reshuffle by Sawant since he took over as the Chief Minister three months ago. In his first cabinet reshuffle, Sawant had inducted MGP’s breakaway MLA Deepak Pauskar after dropping then deputy chief minister Sudin Dhavalikar.
Congress registers protest
Meanwhile, the Congress which is facing a leadership crisis ever since Rahul Gandhi forwarded his resignation is already facing an uphill task in maintaining allies across the country. The party is planning to file a petition before the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and also move the court seeking disqualification of the 10 MLAs.
On Friday, Gandhi had said that the saffron party uses “money power” and “intimidation” to topple governments. “BJP uses money power or threat to topple governments wherever it can. You saw this first in Goa, in the Northeast, and now are trying to do the same in Karnataka. It is their way of functioning. They have money, power, and they use it. This is the reality,” Gandhi said.