Manohar Parrikar, who stepped down as Defence Minister to head a BJP-led coalition in Goa, was sworn in as Chief Minister for the fourth time Tuesday. He will have to prove his majority on the floor of the House Thursday in line with a Supreme Court order Tuesday. Parrikar and nine others were administered the oath of office by Governor Mridula Sinha at Raj Bhavan, three days after the BJP ended up second behind the Congress in a split mandate.
The Congress, which won 17 seats in the 40-member Assembly, had approached the Supreme Court to stall the swearing-in but got no reprieve. The court ordered Parrikar to prove his majority on Thursday though the Governor had earlier given him 15 days to prove his strength.
Along with Parrikar, those sworn in as ministers were two MLAs of the BJP, three of the Goa Forward Party (GFP), two of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and two Independents.
BJP president Amit Shah, who sat in the front row, attended the ceremony which began at 5.15 pm and was over in 30 minutes. The applause was the loudest when Parrikar and GFP’s Vijai Sardesai were sworn in. Sardesai and his two MLAs wore the party symbol on their stoles as they took the oath of office.
While Parrikar chose to take the oath in Konkani, MGP’s Sudin Dhavalikar opted for Marathi. Between the ten, they spoke three languages — one MLA took the oath in English.
After the ceremony, Parrikar spoke to the gathering in Hindi: “My Hindi has improved a bit after going to Delhi. Some of you are curious on how I converted 13 (BJP tally) to magic. To tell you the truth, all our friends, a total of 21, have given a letter to the Governor.”
“Everyone kept a condition that if Modi relieves me from New Delhi and sends me to Goa as Chief Minister, then they will offer support to a BJP-led government. My partners, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Goa Forward Party, have taken this decision for Goa… All these supporters are for Goa’s development and that speciality we call Goankarpann or Goanness. I am thankful for the support. My first focus now is to prove majority,” Parrikar said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his best wishes to Parrikar. “Congratulations to @manoharparrikar and his team on being sworn in. My best wishes in taking Goa to new heights of progress,” Modi tweeted.
In New Delhi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who took additional charge of the Defence portfolio, said he was confident that the BJP would be able to prove its majority in the Goa House and rejected the argument of the “minority” Congress that it was not invited first to form the government in the state.
Earlier Tuesday, the 17 Congress MLAs made a last ditch attempt to stall the swearing-in, meeting the Governor at 1.30 pm at the Raj Bhavan where arrangements for the ceremony were being made. Posters of Modi, Shah and Parrikar lined the road to the Raj Bhavan at Dona Paula.
Emerging from the meeting with the Governor, Luizinho Faleiro, president of the Goa Congress, said: “We have the majority with us and we will prove it. We just need the opportunity… We have told all like-minded MLAs and parties that we are ready to sacrifice, please join us.”
He handed a written submission to the Governor, saying the mandate was against the BJP. “We have given a written submission and have requested her excellency to study our side. We are the single largest party to have secured the highest number of votes. We have also informed that the BJP did not have a pre-poll alliance with any other party… the results were against the BJP. They lost the mandate, their Chief Minister and seven of their ministers too lost it. The whole manner in which they have formed a post-poll alliance amounts to defeating the people’s mandate,” he said.
Faleiro and Chandrakant ‘Babu’ Kavlekar spoke on attempts made to seek an appointment with the Governor since March 12. “She (Mridula Sinha) should have invited us as per the convention and procedure of the Constitution,” Faleiro said.
The Congress has relied on the convention of the single largest party being invited first to form the government. “The Governor does not have the authority to take a head count. The head count is not done here,” he said, pointing to the gates of the Raj Bhavan. “The counting is done in the Legislative Assembly.”