Manohar Parrikar took over as the Goa chief minister on Tuesday afternoon, a few hours after the Supreme Court refused a Congress plea to stay the swearing-in but asked him to prove majority by Thursday.
The 61-year-old BJP leader, who quit as the defence minister a day earlier to return to his home state, will head a coalition government after the party finished second in the assembly election with 13 seats in a 40-member House.
The Congress that got 17 seats in a hung assembly accused the BJP of using money power, saying the party’s move to stake claim to power was against the law.
“If they (Congress) had the majority, they should have gone to the governor instead of approaching the court… No MLA wanted to support the Congress,” said Parrikar after being sworn in as the chief minister for the fourth time.
Of the nine ministers who were sworn in with Parrikar only two -- Francis D’Souza and Pandurang Madkaikar – are from the BJP.
The remaining seven are Sudin Dhavalikar and Manohar Azgaonkar of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), Vijai Sardesai, Vinod Palienkar and Jayesh Salgaonkar of the Goa Forward Party and Independent MLAs Govind Gawde and Rohan Khaunte.
Another independent MLA, Prasad Gaonkar, submitted a letter of support, Parrikar said, taking the number of coalition MLAs to 22, one above the majority mark.
“Congratulations to @manoharparrikar and his team on being sworn in. My best wishes in taking Goa to new heights of progress,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
Congratulations to @manoharparrikar and his team on being sworn in. My best wishes in taking Goa to new heights of progress.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 14, 2017
Senior BJP leaders including party chief Amit Shah, union ministers M Venkaiah Naidu, Nitin Gadkari and JP Nadda were in Panaji for the ceremony.
In Delhi, the BJP and the Congress clashed over Goa as well as Manipur, which, too, voted a hung House with the Congress finishing first but again beaten by the BJP in staking claim to power.
The Congress accused the BJP of stealing the mandate of people and walked out of the Lok Sabha with allies in protest.
Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP of undermining democracy and alleged the Goa governor acted in a partisan manner.
“The Congress party has been protesting that it should have been invited by the governor of Goa to have its leaders sworn. But the Congress party has neither elected a leader nor has it till date made any claim before the governor of Goa,” finance minister Arun Jaitley said in a Facebook post.
The views of Jaitley, who has been given the additional charge of defence, echoed those of the Supreme Court.
The court pulled up the Congress for the delay in filing the petition.
“You should have made him (Parrikar) a party when you knew he is going to become the CM. You want an order behind the back of a man and we shall not allow this,” the bench told senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented Congress legislature party leader Chandrakant Kavlekar.
Kavlekar rushed to the court on the day of Holi on Monday, asking for the oath ceremony to be put on hold.
“You have not disputed their (BJP’s) support, neither before the governor nor before us. On what ground should we stay the swearing-in?” the court asked.
There were rumblings within the Congress as well.
Senior party leaders criticised the delay in garnering support from other parties and Independent MLAs.
“Accountability should be fixed and heads should roll for Goa as well as for other states,” former union minister Renuka Chowdhury said, referring to the recent five state assembly elections.
Barring Punjab, where it returned to power with a huge majority, the Congress again fared badly. It lost Uttarakhand to the BJP while in Uttar Pradesh it won only seven of the 105 seats it contested in 403-member House.
(with agency inputs)