Political drama in Goa: The rundown
In dramatic fashion, two MGP MLAs merged their legislative party with the BJP.
A lot seems to be happening in Goa politics. On March 27, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Goa state government dropped deputy chief minister Sudin Dhavalikar, from ally Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), from the state cabinet. This sparked a furious war of words.
Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant, in a communication to state governor Mridula Sinha, said, "I have dropped Sudin Dhavalikar from the cabinet. The decision on filling up the vacant seat will be taken very soon." Sinha has also accepted Sawant's recommendation.
Sudin reacted angrily to the developments. "People are stunned the way - in the middle of the night - chowkidars conducted dacoity on MGP. People are watching and they will consider their course of action," he said.
So, what is happening in Goa? More importantly, why is it happening?
The dramatic events of March 27 were preceded by equally dramatic events. Two legislators of the MGP broke away from the party and merged with the BJP. The party had three MLAs in the Goa Assembly including Sudin who was appointed deputy chief minister only a week before the event as part of an agreement with the BJP.
MLAs Manohar Ajgaonkar and Deepak Pauskar gave a letter to merge their legislative party with the BJP to the speaker Michael Lobo at 1:45 am, isolating Sudin who was not a signatory to the letter. They had earlier broken away from the MGP on March 26 and formed a group called MGP (two). Since two out of the three members merged with the BJP, they evaded the anti-defection law, which makes it mandatory for two-thirds of a party to break away in case of a split. With these defections, the BJP’s strength has gone up to 14 in the 36-member House. This has put them at the par with the Congress, which was the largest party in the House, up till now.
The MGP has been an ally of the BJP in the state since 2012. Yet, prior to the merger, MGP president Dipak Dhavalikar threatened to withdraw from the BJP-led government citing “conspiracy” to break up the party.
Goa Assembly arithmetic and Manohar Parrikar
The reason behind all the instability in the Goa Assembly is what happened post the state elections in March 2017. Following the elections, the Congress had emerged as the largest party in the Assembly, following the elections, with 17 MLAs. However, the BJP managed to seize power by cobbling up an alliance with the MGP and the Goa Forward Party. This caused a bit of controversy at the time, as by convention, the largest party is invited first to try forming a government. In this case, the Congress had not been called. The BJP had defended the move by saying they had the numbers. The Congress used this as a precedent after the Karnataka state elections in 2018. They cobbled together an alliance with the Janata Dal (Secular) to form a government, despite the fact that the BJP was the single largest party in the legislature.
One of the reasons why the BJP had managed to form an alliance in Goa was Manohar Parrikar. Parrikar was chief minister of the state from 2012 to 2014 before his elevation to the Centre and was the most popular leader of the party there. However, following the party’s showing in the 2017 election, there was a demand that he be brought back to the state. The Goa Forward Party said that it would extend support to the BJP only if Parrikar was brought back as chief minister.
Thus, Parrikar quit as defence minister and returned to the state. Things worked well for about year. Then, around March 2018, Parrikar went to the US to get treated for some pancreatic ailment. It was finally revealed in October 2018 that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer. After a brief struggle with the disease, he passed away on March 17.
His death created a vacuum in the state and parties started jockeying for power. The Congress again staked a claim to power while some allies also started making some noise. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari was sent from Delhi to sort out the issue and he brought 21 MLAs to the governor to show support for the BJP government. Sudin was made deputy chief minister while Sawant, a protégé of Parrikar, was made chief minister. However, the Congress remained the largest party in the state legislature. That is, till the events of March 27.