Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Wednesday defended his decision to sack his deputy Sudin Dhavalikar and claimed that the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party MLA had “failed” to abide by the government’s common minimum programme, PTI reported.

In the early hours of Wednesday, two of the three MLAs from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, but the third MLA, Dhavalikar, did not. The BJP’s strength in the 40-member state Assembly increased to 14 – as many as the Congress – while the MGP is now down to just one lawmaker. Sawant sacked Dhavalikar from the Cabinet soon after.

Sawant refuted claims that the BJP had caused the rift within the coalition ally. He had taken charge as chief minister after his predecessor Manohar Parrikar’s death on March 17.

Sawant said his former deputy had placed his personal interest above the coalition. “One of the conditions in the common minimum programme was that no alliance partner would contest the Shiroda Assembly by-election,” Sawant said. “But MGP President Dipak Dhavalikar [brother of Sudin Dhavalikar] refused to withdraw from the Shiroda assembly constituency [where the BJP has planned to field its candidate].”

The MGP MLAs, Manohar Ajgaonkar and Dipak Pawaskar, formed their own legislature wing and merged it with the BJP. “Both the MLAs were not feeling comfortable in the MGP,” Sawant said. “They were also apprehensive that they would be removed from the party. That is why they broke away and approached me.”

He downplayed the Dhavalikar-led party’s decision to contest both the Lok Sabha seats in Goa and said that it would not impact the BJP’s odds in the polls.

The Lok Sabha polls and the Assembly bye-elections in Shiroda, Mandrem and Mapusa will be held on April 23.