Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Friday dropped four ministers from his cabinet, potentially opening up seven portfolios for the 10 Congress MLAs who recently defected to the ruling BJP. Former Leader of the Opposition in the House, Chandrakant Kavlekar, will be the new deputy CM, Sawant confirmed, replacing Vijai Sardesai of the Goa Forward Party, an NDA ally.
“I have asked Goa Forward ministers and independent Rohan Khaunte to resign. Newly inducted Chandrakant Kavlekar will be the new Deputy Chief Minister,” Sawant told The Indian Express.
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.
Panaji legislator Atanasio Monserrate, who is said to have brought five other MLAs along with his wife and former MLA Jennifer Monseratte into the BJP fold, is expected to get a plum portfolio. Speaking to the press after his arrival from Delhi, he said, “To be frank, I joined the Congress a couple of times… The last time when they asked me I said it was like the return of the prodigal son, then I guessed as much after month that I really didn’t belong there…All the work in your constituency will be fulfilled. That kind of an assurance I never had in my 17 years (as a politician)… They (the BJP) say sabka saath sabka vikas, I really felt that there.”
Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo said the CM has personally called each of the minister over phone and asked them to resign. “For now I am happy that some old ministers are being taken out. There was a lot of threat they kept imposing that they will withdraw support if their work was not done… The BJP was under constant fear of their dadagiri. That has gone. The newly inducted members come with good understanding,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sardesai said he has not received any communication officially. “We haven’t received any official communication from BJP central leaders. Our party is part of NDA, joined the BJP-led state government after talks with the national leadership. The present state BJP leaders were not part of the discussion,” he told The Indian Express. “We have not yet received any official communication from the BJP central leaders. On the contrary, we have received indications that the matter will be sorted out amicably.”
Meanwhile, at Congress House, Alex Reginaldo — the MLA who refused to switch over to the BJP — said the party is yet to decide on a Leader of the Opposition. He said it took a long time for the party to agree on who would be the Leader of the Opposition when there were 17 MLAs in the party, “and now we can’t decide this when we are five”.
He added, “I got a call from one of the Congress MLAs who joined the BJP, saying if I am interested I could still join (them). I have asked them not to make such calls to me. I will now wait for the Assembly.”