The smallest state in the country, Goa has just 40 members in its state Assembly. But as the latest round of defections shows, there is no end to the permutations and combinations that can be weaved with those numbers in its volatile, multi-party politics.
Since its transition to a full-fledged state 35 years ago, in 1987, Goa has had 16 chief ministers, with some holding office for barely a month or even less.
Here is how the situation stood before it went to elections earlier this year:
* BJP: The ruling BJP’s campaign was spearheaded by sitting Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who took over the reins after party stalwart and former CM Manohar Parrikar’s demise in 2019.
The BJP had lost the elections technically in 2017, with 13 seats against the Congress’s 17. However, it managed to cobble up a majority by tying up with regional parties like the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Goa Forward Party (GFP), and two Independents.
In 2019, 10 Congress MLAs and two MGP MLAs defected to the BJP, bouncing it to a comfortable position. Out went the alliance partners from the government.
Before the polls, the BJP lost two MLAs, one each to the Congress and AAP, and inducted one legislator each from the Congress and GFP. One of those around whom there was huge speculation at the time was sitting Ports Minister Michael Lobo, who did eventually leave to join the Congress – only to return to the BJP on Wednesday.
Congress: The party, which saw power slip out of its hands in 2017 despite being short by just 4 MLAs for a simple majority, went into the Assembly elections with just 2 sitting MLAs. After the 2019 defection, it had also seen 2 MLAs switch to newbie Trinamool Congress and one more to the BJP.
BJP ex-allies: Miffed by the BJP, the MGP and GFP went into the 2022 election forging new alliances – the MGP with the TMC, and the GFP with the Congress.
AAP, RG: Among new entrants was the Aam Aadmi Party, which greeted Wednesday’s defection news by repeating allegations of ‘Operation Lotus’ against the BJP. Also in the race was a regional outfit, Revolutionary Goans (RG), with an “anti-migrant” plank.
TMC: It floated a proposal for a large Opposition alliance for the polls, expressing willingness to join hands with the Congress among others. The Congress was not enthused, with party observer for the polls P Chidambaram accusing the TMC and AAP of “fracturing” the anti-BJP votes, maintaining that only the Congress could defeat the BJP in Goa.
After the results:
The BJP won 20 of the 40 seats. Soon after the poll results, two MLAs of the MGP, which had fought in alliance with the TMC, gave their support to the BJP, as did 3 Independents, taking the BJP strength to 25.
The Congress won 11 seats, AAP two, and GFP and RG 1 seat each. The TMC could not open its tally.
With Wednesday’s defection, the BJP is up to 28 in the Assembly, while the two MGP MLAs and 3 Independents continue to support it.
The Congress, reduced to 2 last time round, is down to 3.