As the Goa BJP confirmed for the first time that it was looking to put in place a “strategy” amidst reports of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s health taking a turn for the worse, the Congress Saturday approached the Governor to stake claim to form the government.
CLICK FOR UPDATES: Manohar Parikkar dead
And after the Congress dispatched a letter to Governor Mridula Sinha, the BJP called for an “emergency meeting” at the party headquarters in Panaji. In the letter, Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar attributed the Congress decision to the death of former Cabinet minister Francis D’Souza in February, reducing the BJP strength to 13. The letter was emailed, faxed and hand-delivered to Raj Bhawan.
Deputy Speaker and BJP leader Michael Lobo Saturday said the “emergency meeting” was called to discuss the details on Parrikar’s health, which he said was showing no signs of improvement and had forced the party to start discussing options and taking the coalition into confidence.
“Parrikar ji has been quite unwell since last night. Our doctors are keeping close watch. Aur aise nahi bol pa rahe ki woh theek ho jayenge. Isliye emergency meeting rakha tha ki aagey strategy kya honi chahiye (Doctors are unable to tell us if he will get better. So an emergency was called to discuss the strategy to go forward),” he said.
Underscoring that Parrikar will remain the Chief Minister as long as he is in Goa, Lobo said the BJP will meet ally Goa Forward’s party president Vijai Sardesai. “Parrikar ji aaj bhi hain, kal bhi rahenge. Agar aisa kuch hogaya, We are praying. Lekin theek hone ka chances nahi hain. Woh kaafi bimaar hain, kaafi…it’s almost…party will talk to Goa forward, MGP too. Aisa kuch hogaya toh new Chief Minister will be from BJP. Kitna din main hoga Bhagwan jaane koi nahi jaanta hain,” he said after the meeting.
(Parrikar ji is there today and will be here tomorrow. If something happens…we are praying. But his chances of getting better are slim. He is quite unwell, very…it’s almost…If something happens the new CM will be from BJP. Only God knows when this will happen).
After the Congress letter to her, Governor Sinha is yet to give the party an appointment but until late evening, Sinha met BJP’s organising secretary Satish Dhond.
The Congress is currently the single-largest party in the state with 14 MLAs in the 40-member House. The BJP has 13 legislators, including Parrikar and its government is supported by three MLAs each of the Goa Forward Party and Maharashtra Gomantak Party, and three Independents. Two Congress MLAs have resigned after defecting to the BJP.
In the letter, LoP Kavlekar wrote, “Consequent upon the sad demise of Francis D’Souza, MLA who was belonging to the BJP, it is humbly submitted that the incumbent BJP led state government under the leadership of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar which has long lost the trust of the people has also lost the strength of the House. Also, we anticipate that the numbers of the BJP may further dwindle thus not allowing such a party in minority to continue even for a minute.”
Seeking to be called to form the government, Kavlekar said, “Any action in violation of the Constitutional mandate to invite the single largest party to form the government and any attempt made to bring the state under President’s rule will be undemocratic and illegal and will be challenged, as deemed fit.”
Goa Congress president Girish Chodankar said they were ready to prove their majority. “We were the largest party on the day of the elections and we asked to be invited. We are again asking what is our right,” he said.
Asked why they had decided to move now, Chodankar said, “We are human. A death is unfortunate. After D’Souza’s death, we wanted to respect the time of grief… We respect the CM too and we wish him speedy recovery. For now, this was important as we need to move fast.”
While the Congress spent the better half of the day getting an appointment with Governor Sinha, three independent MLAs and MLAs of Goa Forward led by coalition partner Vijai Sardesai moved together and sought an appointment to meet Parrikar at his private residence minutes before the BJP “emergency meeting”.
Sardesai stressed on the six MLAs walking together to the CM’s house to show “unequivocal support” and “solidarity” to Parrikar.
After the BJP meeting, Cabinet minister Mauvin Godinho sidestepped questions on Parrikar’s health. “We are facing elections, two parliament seats and three assembly seats. So all the MLAs were taken into confidence because names have to be submitted by tomorrow to the central election committee. Names have be finalised by high command,” he said.
Power Minister and BJP MLA Nilesh Cabral too confirmed that Parrikar’s “condition had deteriorated in the night” but said that with the CM office tweeting he is stable, it should be taken as the official statement.
Until late night, the Congress made several attempts to reach out to the Governor before issuing a press statement slamming Sinha and accusing her of being manipulated by the BJP.