A day after 10 MLAs of the Congress merged with the BJP, Goa Deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai said the developments are “incomprehensible” as “nobody was destabilising the government”, nor “was there any other threat”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sardesai, leader of NDA ally Goa Forward, said, “I am at sea with regards to what this exercise fulfils and I fail to understand what was the insecurity behind this decision.”
Sardesai said the first impact of the development will be felt during the monsoon session of the Assembly, which is slated to begin on July 15. “The opposition put up questions and our ministries were ready with the answers. Now with ten of them having jumped (to the BJP), things stand to change. Who does one answer to? Who do we debate with?,” he said.
The recent development has taken the BJP strength in the 40-member Assembly to 27, while the Congress is reduced to 5.
Three Goa Forward MLAs are ministers in the state government. Sardesai said Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had approached him to allow some ministers to be dropped from the cabinet to include new names. “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.
“We had given our commitment to Manohar Parrikar and we were promised that we will be given equal respect. Now suddenly this happened. I asked the BJP president what assurances can be made that Lobo will be made minister if we agree to drop out — our party has a soft corner for the deputy speaker. We asked him, what if we agreed and some other person was made. He told us that the party will get back to us,” he said.
Deputy Speaker Lobo confirmed that Sardesai was not kept in the loop.
“We were and still are dependable allies. During Manohar Parrikar’s ill-health, Chandrakant Kavlekar told us to join Congress so that the BJP government could be toppled. When we didn’t, Kavlekar told us that if we do not jump, he along with several Congress MLAs will come to the BJP. So this development didn’t exactly come as a shock to me,” Sardesai said.
“Two years ago Antanasio Monserrate who now has won the Panjim seat from Congress called me while I was at Vancouver with the same proposal. I stood my ground and said no. Later, Parrikar too told me that there was pressure to drop some names from cabinet. But he stood his ground and kept his word. The current lot, who are ruling the roost in Goa, were not privy to the way the word was given nor did they play a role in formation of this government,” he said.
“For us, Parrikar was the central figure and we did politics and governance on trust. Everyone is shocked with this. Parrikar knew to honour his word. Now that he is gone, so has the word,” said Sardesai.
He said he and his party will wait for the chief minister to return from Delhi.
Asked if he could lose the ministries and his deputy chief ministership, he said, “When it was proposed that new ministers are to be inducted, we had conveyed to the BJP leadership that it is not in the fitness of things. We will wait and watch.”