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As Parrikar gets 48 hours to prove majority, Congress faces revolt in Goa

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 14 March 2017, 19:42 IST
(AFP photo)

Manohar Parrikar has been sworn in as the Chief Minister of Goa, and will have to prove his majority in the Assembly on 16 March under the supervision of the Supreme Court.

Earlier, the apex court disposed of the Congress's plea challenging Goa governor Mridula Sinha's invitation to Parrikar to form the next government.

The three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, gave the senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader only 48 hours, instead of 15 days, to prove his majority. While hearing the petition by Congress leader Chandrakant Kavlekar, the apex court refused to stay Parrikar's swearing-in ceremony.

During the hearing, the bench questioned why the Congress didn't approach the governor if it had the numbers. The bench also asked the Congress to show the numbers, and questioned why there was not a single affidavit to prove how many members supported it.

While the Congress's general secretary in-charge of Goa, Digvijaya Singh, welcomed the court's decision, the party's lawyer and senior leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said Parrikar was welcome to be the Chief Minister for two days.

The Congress's inertia

Congress leaders may be ecstatic with the court's order, but the situation on the ground is getting worse, with many party MLAs threatening to quit the party.

The local leadership blames the senior leadership for not acting promptly, which it believes led to the party failing to form the government despite emerging as the single largest party with 17 of the 40 seats. The BJP won 13 while smaller parties like the Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Goa Forward Party (GFP) bagged three seats each. The Nationalist Congress Party won one, while independents bagged three seats.

The Congress' calculations went wrong after the GFP, NCP and a party-backed independent joined hands with the BJP. In a dramatic turn of events, the GFP, which fought the elections on an anti-BJP plank, ditched the Congress to help the BJP retain Goa. Even the Congress-backed independent was quick to extend support to the BJP, while the MGP had already assured support to BJP with the condition that Parrikar be brought back to Goa. Sources say that the lone NCP MLA has also promised to help the saffron party.

With these developments, BJP's tally reached 21 while Congress was left red-faced with only the support of 17. In fact, the GFP was in talks with the grand old party to have a pre-poll alliance, but the latter was against this idea and wanted to go alone. Soon after the results were announced, Catch spoke to GFP's Vijai Sardesai, and he hinted how Congress acted like the “B-team” of BJP, and that the GFP would hold discussions before making its decision. It chose the BJP over the Congress, which derailed the latter's plans of wresting control of the coastal state.

Bickering within Congress ranks

The local leadership says the party spent way too much time in choosing the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader, while the BJP, under the leadership of Union minister Nitin Gadkari, went on collecting one letter of support after another.

In fact, the party spent the whole of Sunday bickering over the various candidates for the leader of the CLP. Peeved at the way the Congress leadership let the BJP form the government, Vishwajit Rane, son of former CM Pratapsingh Rane, even threatened to quit.

Reports suggest that Rane is in talks with BJP, and the possibility of him and some others joining the BJP is not being ruled out. Some of the Congress legislators including Rane, Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco, Jennifer Monserrate, Dayanand Sopte and Francis Silveira had a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the way forward.

Soon after the meeting got over, Rane told the media that he would not sit in Opposition for five more more years, and is thinking of resigning from the party. Sources claim Rane also met Parrikar, who has assured him of a position in the government if he and the other MLAs switch sides.

Monserrate, too, vented out her anger against the senior leadership, and claimed that after this debacle, the Congress would never return to power in Goa. The only woman Congress leader to have won went on to add that the party has become a laughing stock, and the people of Goa would never vote for the party again.

Even Lourenco said that he was disturbed by how the party functions according to the whims and fancies of one person, and that there is nothing more embarrassing than to sit in Opposition for five years despite being the single largest party.

Renuka lashes out at Digvijaya

Andhra Pradesh Congress leader and former Union minister Renuka Chowdhury also raised questions on how the situation in Goa was handled after the results were announced. Speaking to the media, she blamed Digvijaya for the mess, and said he should take responsibility and resign.

She also raised a demand for giving local leaders a free hand to make decisions for their respective states.

Another Congress leader, Satyavrat Chaturvedi, also held the party leadership responsible for the mess and accused the leaders of acting slow.

Rahul finally breaks silence

Breaking his silence three days after the poll results came out, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP of using 'money power' in Goa.

He said: “We are in Opposition, you have ups and downs, and we had a little down in UP. We accept it. Our fight is against BJP's ideology; what they did in Manipur and Goa is exactly the ideology we are fighting against. Out of five states, BJP won two, we won three. In two of the states we won, democracy is being undermined by them, using financial power and money.”

No chance of comeback

Parrikar was sworn in with eight others on Tuesday evening, and there doesn't seem to be the remotest of possibilities that the Congress can make any sort of comeback.

To ensure that none of the independents spring any last-minute surprises, the BJP has given them positions in the government.

With its own house in a complete disarray, the Congress is unlikely to attract any dissidents from other outfits, forcing it to sit in the Opposition for the next five years.

First published: 14 March 2017, 19:42 IST