Defence minister Manohar Parrikar might return to Goa to become chief minister and help the BJP outmanoeuvre the Congress by forming the next government with the help of regional parties and independents.
With 13 seats, the BJP finished second to the Congress’ 17 in the 40-member Goa assembly with 10 seats spread among smaller parties and independents.
Both national parties are in frantic talks to stake claim to form the government, and a only a leader of Parrikar’s stature can stitch together a coalition, party insiders say.
Late on Saturday, Union roads minister Nitin Gadkari was dispatched to Panaji to hold talks with regional parties and he got back to the central leadership with good news at 3 am this morning, said party sources.
Parrikar was Goa chief minister before joining the Narendra Modi government as defence minister in November 2014. The final call on Parrikar’s return will be taken at a meeting of the BJP parliamentary board headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday evening.
The BJP had projected Parrikar as its face in Goa but didn’t declare him the chief ministerial candidate because Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted him to continue in the Union cabinet. The party has been forced to do a re-think about Parrikar after its sitting chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar lost.
The BJP is depending on the support of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Goa Forward Party, who have won three seats each. The BJP has the support of Independent MLA Govind Gawade, who was backed by the party during the election from Priol constituency. There are two more independents and the BJP leadership is in talks with them.
MGP’s Sudhin Dahvlikar is a close friend of highways minister Nitin Gadkari and the two negotiated an alliance after a meeting that went on till wee hours on Sunday. Gadkari has left for Goa to finalise talks with other parties.
The MGP was a part of the BJP government in Goa, but walked out of it following differences with chief minister Parsekar. The MGP too wants Parrikar to head the next government. “We are also in talks with the Goa Forward Party. We are confident of striking a deal,” a Union minister told HT.