Updated: March 18, 2019 8:06:14 am
Within hours of Manohar Parrikar’s demise, two meetings in separate settings began in the state where weeks of political uncertainty had just entered its widely anticipated final phase.
Their government’s future uncertain, BJP MLAs huddled in a hotel in the state capital, awaiting the arrival of Nitin Gadkari. The Union Minister was expected some time after midnight.
In another part of the city, MLAs from the Congress met at the residence of Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar for an impromptu CLP meeting to discuss the next steps in their bid for power.
In the Congress, there were apprehensions that the BJP might try to impose President’s Rule on the state. In the BJP camp, there was talk of Speaker Pramod Sawant as a possible “interim chief minister” till such time as the party was able to take stock of numbers and figure out strategy.
Sources in both parties were saying Sunday evening that if Governor Mridula Sinha was not convinced that the numbers and names added up, she could recommend that the Assembly be placed in suspended animation until the Lok Sabha elections at least.
The current numbers in the Assembly do not appear to favour either party — and adding to the peculiarity of the situation is the fact that neither party has put forth a chief ministerial candidate with the required numbers to pass the floor test.
The strength of the Assembly is now 36 — with the deaths of Parrikar on Sunday and Francis D’Souza in February, and with two Congress members having resigned. In this, the Congress has the largest chunk of 14 MLAs; the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Goa Forward Party have 3 MLAs each, the NCP has 1 MLA, and there are three Independents.
That leaves the BJP with 12 MLAs; however, one of them, Pandurang Madkaikar is in hospital and is unlikely to be able to come to the Assembly for a possible vote. This is the reason the Congress has been saying it has 14 MLAs to the BJP’s 11. Another BJP MLA, Speaker Sawant, has only a casting vote.
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Parrikar’s government had the support of the MGP, Goa Forward, and the Independents — however, all these MLAs have been clear for long that they would support only a government led by Parrikar.
Late Sunday night, state Congress president Girish Chodankar was waiting for “a call” from Raj Bhavan. The party had written a letter to the Governor staking claim on Saturday, and its leaders repeated their demand on Sunday. “At our end, all options are being worked out. Naturally, we are talking with all factions. The decision and name of the chief minister will depend on those who join to strengthen us,” Chodankar said.
Through the morning, there were reports that Congress leader Digambar Kamat would join the BJP. Kamat himself denied he was switching — political analysts, however, pointed to his experience of having run an earlier minority government in the state.
On Friday, as the condition of Parrikar deteriorated sharply, the BJP called its MLAs for a “confidence-building” meeting. The same day, Goa Forward’s Vijay Sardesai marched to CM’’ residence in the company of the MGP and Independents, saying that “in the event the BJP wants to do something new, they know whom to contact and how to contact and that we are together…” A fresh election is something none of the BJP’s allies will want — and Sardesai has said repeatedly that “no one can afford a re-election in the state at this juncture”.
Late in the night, BJP sources were claiming there would be a swearing-in on Monday morning. What they could not say was who might become Goa’s new chief minister.