A Game of Numbers
On October 15, when the Congress Legislature Party held its meeting in Panaji to urge President Ram Nath Kovind to ensure the assembly was not dissolved by ‘foul play’, two of its MLAs, Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte, backed the decision. Leader of Opposition Chandrakant ‘Babu’ Kavalekar even claimed after the meeting that the party had the numbers to prove its majority in a floor test. The very next day, Shirodkar and Sopte shattered the Congress’s Goa dream by joining the BJP. Assembly Speaker Pramod Sawant accepted their resignations within hours.
Politics in this tiny state has taken an interesting turn since. The Congress’s strength is now 14, equal to the BJP’s, in the 40-member House. As two seats have fallen vacant and BJP MLA Pandurang Madkaikar is in a coma, there will be 37 members in case a floor test is held. The BJP has
the backing of three MLAs each from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Goa Forward Party (GFP) as well as three independents. So even if the two ailing BJP members— Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and Francis D’Souza— do not turn up for the floor test, the party can win with the help of these nine MLAs.
However, clashes between the MGP and the
GFP are bound to take place in case there is a change in leadership. Parrikar’s return to Goa on a stretcher, after discharge from Delhi’s AIIMS hospital, has left many in the state shaken. That MGP’s Sudin Dhavalikar and GFP’s Vijai Sardesai want the CM’s chair is no secret. Sardesai, who leads a group of six MLAs, has reportedly offered to merge his party with the BJP if he is given the CM’s post. “The government should complete its term with or without Parrikar. Amit Shah had promised me that there won’t be a midterm poll. The BJP should keep its promise. People are watching,” he says.
Dhavalikar’s association with the right-wing Sanatan Sanstha is a major roadblock to his chief ministerial ambition. In spite of the report that Dhavalikar met Congress leaders in Delhi, the party is likely to maintain a distance from him in the wake of india today tv’s sting operation that caught two Sanatan Sanstha members admitting their role in keeping explosives outside a Navi Mumbai theatre a decade ago. Dhavalikar is not likely to snap ties with the BJP either, even if the party overlooks his ambitions, as he wants to keep his public works department.
All is not well in the BJP either. Upset with the top leadership ignoring them, Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo and MLA Rajesh Patnekar have expressed their frustration and hinted that only cabinet berths can pacify them.
Political observers point out that only Parrikar can ensure that the BJP stays united. In such a scenario, Shah has two options: first, as claimed by Sopte, poach more Congress MLAs, and the second, merge smaller parties with the BJP.
Meanwhile, the Congress is struggling to save its face, having lost its second opportunity in one-and-a-half years. “It was not expected from Shirodkar and Sopte,” laments Congress in-charge S. Chellakumar.
‘RUNAWAY LAWMAKERS’ Shirodkar (second from left) and Sopte joined the BJP in Delhi on Oct. 16