As many as 10 out of 15 Congress MLAs in Goa on Wednesday resigned and merged with the Bharatiya Janata Party, NDTV reported. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant was present when the 10 MLAs arrived at the Assembly complex around 7.30 pm, PTI reported. Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo was also present.
“Ten Congress MLAs, along with their Opposition Leader, have merged with BJP,” Sawant said, according to ANI. “Strength of BJP has now risen to 27. They had come for development of the state and their constituency. They have not put forward any condition, they have joined BJP unconditionally.”
Speaker Rajesh Patnekar said two letters were given to him – one by Congress MLAs and the other one by Sawant saying that the strength of BJP had gone up. “I have accepted both the letters,” he was quoted as saying.
The lawmakers who broke away are Babu Kavalekar, Babush Monserratte, his wife Jennifer Monserrate, Tony Fernandes, Francis Silveira, Filipe Neri Rodrigues, Clafasio, Wilfred De Sa, Nilkant Halankar and Isidore Fernandes. The Congress was the single largest party in Goa after the 2017 elections to the 40-member Assembly, but the BJP had tied up alliances to form the state government.
Deputy Speaker Lobo said the merger was done under Schedule 10 of the Constitution. “10 MLAs of Congress, 2/3rd of its strength, separated and merged with BJP,” he told ANI.
Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar claimed they joined the BJP because of the good work done by Sawant. “I was Leader of Opposition, despite that development work in our constituency could not be done,” he was quoted as saying. “Despite being the single largest party we could not form the government.”
Kavlekar asked why people should choose them next time if no development was done. “They [Congress] couldn’t fulfill the promises they made,” he said. “There were several opportunities to form government but due to lack of unity among some senior leaders, it could never be done. So we did this.”
With the resignations of the 10 MLAs and their subsequent entry into the BJP, the saffron party will not need the help of its allies to sustain the government in Goa. There has been speculation that Chief Minister Sawant will drop Goa Forward Party ministers, including Deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai, from the Cabinet.
Sawant had taken oath as the chief minister following Manohar Parrikar’s death in March. Days later, he sacked then Deputy Chief Minister Sudin Dhavalikar, claiming that the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party MLA had “failed” to abide by the government’s common minimum programme.
The crisis in the Goa Congress has come even as the party is struggling to retain power in neighbouring Karnataka. Its coalition with the Janata Dal Secular is on the verge of collapse after 16 MLAs resigned.