The Maharashtra Gomantak Party (MGP), an ally of the ruling BJP in Goa, has moved the High Court seeking restraint order on former Congress MLAs Dayanand Sopte and Subash Shirodkar, who quit the Assembly and joined the BJP, from contesting by-elections for the saffron party.
In its petition filed before the Panjim bench of Bombay High Court on Monday, the MGP alleged that it amounts to “horse trading by the ruling party”.
The MGP, which has three MLAs in the 40-member House, also questioned the manner in which Assembly Speaker Pramod Sawant accepted the resignation of the two MLAs over fax. The petition stated that the party has “apprehension that the fax was received by the Speaker from the office of the national president of BJP.”
The petition has made Election Commissioner of India, the Goa Chief Electoral Officer and state Assembly Speaker as respondents, along with Sopte and Shirodkar.
Sopte and Shirodkar had resigned from the Congress on October 16 and joined the BJP. They are being seen as the ruling party’s nominees from Mandrem and Shiroda constituencies, respectively.
The petition also mentions the ill-health of a few MLAs from the BJP, including Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, and calls them “terminally ill”. It states, “The political situation in Goa is such that four members of the Assembly representing BJP – Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, ministers Francisco D’Souza and Pandurang Madkaikarm, and Jose Luis Carlos Almeida, representing Vasco Da Gama constituency – are terminally ill. None of them can attend Assembly proceedings…”
While Shirodkar refused to comment and said he is yet to read the petition, Sopte said, “The MGP itself has had over 30 of its MLAs in the past defecting. I will ask our leader Vinay Tendulkar to address any questions.”
Tendulkar, state BJP president, said, “Let the court decide.” Asked whether the duo will be allowed to contest as BJP nominees, he replied, “Sure. Why else did they resign and join BJP?”
On the health of the top leaders, Tendulkar said, “The MLAs are resting and will resume soon.”
The MGP’s petition also took on Speaker Pramod Sawant and stated that he is “continuing (his) allegiance to the BJP”. The party questioned the manner in which Sawant received the resignations on fax, without notice to either the MLAs or the Congress, and without probing whether the resignations were voluntary and genuine. “The Speaker has acted mechanically, without any application of mind, in furtherance of…machinations of BJP,” the petition reads.
MGP chief Deepak Dhavalikar told The Indian Express that the BJP is poaching MLAs because many legislators in the ruling party are in “very serious (health) condition —- addition of these MLAs is to prove the party’s majority (in) future.”
Calling this “luring of MLAs” as a pointer to “corruption in public life”, the MGP’s petition stated, “They were lured to resign…by assuring them re-election on BJP ticket, ministerial berth on re-election, as well as immediate rehabilitation with chairman of EDC Ltd and Goa Tourism Development Corporation Ltd.”
BJP leader Sidharth Kuncalienkar had quit and made way for Subash Shirodkar to take over as chairman of EDC, while Sopte took over from Nilesh Cabral as GTDC chairman, both offices of statutory corporations.
The petition states: “…Facts demonstrate that registration by Sopte and Shirodkar was by way of quid pro quo. The defecting members…have been suitably rewarded (by BJP).”