Reduced to a minority, the Congress-led coalition government in Goa on Thursday appeared to have averted an immediate threat to its survival postponing a crucial Assembly vote while Central leaders of Congress and NCP were locked in parleys to defuse the political crisis.
Apparently jittery over the fate of the Appropriation bill if it is put to vote in the Assembly, the Digamber Kamat government recommended that the House be prorogued which was executed by Governor SC Jamir.
There was a likelihood of the Bill being defeated on the floor of the House after three NCP MLAs and an Independent member Vishvjit Rane decided to withdraw the support and this would have led to the fall of the seven-month-old government.
Parallelly, armed with a mandate from NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, top leaders of the party including Union Minister Praful Patel met the three MLAs including two ministers to convey the leadership's warning of "severe action" if they did not pull back. The three NCP legislators however appeared to be defiant and hectic efforts were on to bring them back to the coalition fold.
Congress-led coalition had a strength of 23 MLAs in a House of 40 but it was reduced to 19 following the revolt.
Rane appeared to have toned down his rhetoric when he said he does not want to create a political crisis but insisted there were grievances which must be settled.
Sources indicated that an Ordinance may be promulgated after a Cabinet meeting to give effect to the crucial Appropriation bill which could not be taken up.
The Opposition BJP, which has 14 members, adopted a wait and watch approach but demanded convening of a special session of the Assembly for a trial of strength to "call the bluff" of the ruling alliance. The government should be dismissed if it does not survive the floor test, it said while voicing its anger over the Assembly being suddenly prorogued.
Opposition members protested at the abrupt decision to keep the Assembly on hold move and sat on the well of the House.
Signalling that he would crack the whip, Pawar said in Delhi his senior colleagues are carrying a letter to the Goa Speaker informing him that the action by the MLAs amounts to inviting anti-defection provisions. Pawar has already assured Kamat that the NCP will continue to support his government.
The NCP supremo said the Congress and NCP fought election together and they should honour the poll pact.
In the letter to the Speaker, Pawar said he has referred to a Bombay High Court ruling which held that the refusal to heed to the party's directive amounted to anti-defection attracting disqualification from the Assembly.
"According to the new law, these MLAs can be stopped from contesting for the next five years," he said.
Hoping that party MLAs in Goa would think again before taking any decision, he said the legislators could air their grievances to the party leadership.
"If they do not heed to the party's directive, they would face extreme action," Pawar added.
The Opposition BJP meanwhile distanced itself from the crisis with its leader LK Advani saying "It is the Congress party's problem. Let them settle it by themselves."
"As far as we are concerned, we will keep away from Goa now," Advani told reporters in Bangalore.
Advani, however, said if a situation developed warranting BJP's coming into the picture on government formation, the party's Parliamentary Board will meet and take a decision.
The Congress claimed the the situation is under control. BK Hariprasad, AICC General Secretary and in-charge of Goa affairs said in Panaji "we would be able to get NCP back in our fold."