With CM Manohar Parrikar in Delhi hospital, Congress stakes claim to form government in Goa
The Opposition Congress staked claim to form a government in Goa on Monday, demanding the dismissal of the ruling alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at a time when chief minister Manohar Parrikar is undergoing treatment in New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Chandrakant Kavlekar, the Congress legislature party chief, said in a letter to the governor that Parrikar was “unable to function and governance has come to a standstill”, even as the BJP sent three senior leaders to assess the political situation in the state and stressed there was no threat to its government.
“We submitted two memorandums (to the governor’s office) and requested that (the)?situation to undergo election within 18 months shouldn’t arise… If the current government is not capable to function, we should be given the chance,” said Kavlekar.
He, however, did not elaborate how his party hoped to get to the halfway mark in the state’s assembly.
With 16 of the 40 seats in the assembly, the Congress is the state’s single-largest party. But the BJP, which has 14 seats, stitched an alliance with regional players Goa Forward Party (GFP) and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which have three seats each, after the elections last year.
The coalition received the support of three independent members of the House, and formed the government.
The other seat is held by the Nationalist Congress Party, a Congress ally.
The Congress’s move came amidst concerns over the health of 62-year-old Parrikar, who has visited the United States thrice in seven months for treatment. He is suffering from a pancreatic ailment.
Two other leaders in the government — urban development minister Francis D’Souza and power minister Pandurang Madkaikar — are also undergoing treatment for other ailments and conditions.
“Such an impasse cannot be allowed to permeate. The government should be dismissed and we should be given an opportunity,” Kavlekar said in one of the letters submitted to governor Mridula Sinha’s office.
Speaking to news agency Press Trust of India, Kavlekar said, “The party urged the governor not to consider dissolution of the state legislative assembly, which is a possibility considering internal fighting in the ruling alliance and the illness of Parrikar.”
He said the Congress has the support of legislators from other parties and can form the government, if given a chance. “We will prove our majority on the floor of the House.”
But on paper, the BJP still has the numbers. Even with the support of the lone NCP?legislator, the Congress will not be able to reach the majority mark of 21, if there are no defections in the ruling alliance.
The BJP said its government is not facing any threat. “Nothing is going to happen. The government is strong and has the full majority. There are no problems between the government and allies,” Ram Lal, one of the three leaders sent to the state, said before he returned to Delhi.
Ram Lal and two other central leaders — BL Santhosh and Vinay Puranik — arrived in Goa on Sunday, a day after Parrikar was flown to Delhi for treatment.
The central observers, who held meetings with legislators and allies, will brief the leadership about the ground situation and possible options. After that, the party is likely take a call on its course of action.
On Sunday, GFP supremo Vijai Sardesai led a team of six legislators, including three independents, to meet the BJP observers. “We are equally responsible for the stability of this government because we have created this. It is our baby,” Sardesai said after the meeting, indicating the GFP’s support for the BJP.
In the 2017 assembly elections, the Congress did not field candidates in two of the seven seats contested by the GFP, in a move that was seen as a tactical support to the new party. With the BJP suggesting Parrikar (then a Union minister) as the CM, the GFP eventually supported the BJP alliance.
The MGP, another BJP ally, ruled out speculation over its merger with the national party. “The rumours have no meaning. I reiterate this: the MGP is a very old party. There will be no merger at any cost,” MGP president Deepak Dhavalikar said.
BJP leaders said party MLAs and ally MGP want Parrikar to remain the chief minister, though the GFP and the three Independents have demanded a “permanent solution”.
Cleofato Coutinho, a political analyst, said the move to approach the governor could be a pressure tactic by the Congress.
“As far the governor is concerned, there is no constitutional deadlock. They (Congress) are also entitled to pressure tactics. They have also to be careful because last time (in 2017) they did not go to the governor (after the election results) and that was used against them. This time they are trying to be doubly sure and they are not accused of sleeping over this.”
In 2017, the Congress was pilloried for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory after it sat on the opportunity to form a government in the state.
Parrikar was first hospitalised on February 14. He has visited the US for treatment in the recent past; most recently on August 30. He returned on September 6 but had to be admitted to a Goa hospital soon after. He has since been moved to the Capital.
In Delhi, BJP president Amit Shah and other senior party leaders visited Parrikar in AIIMS on Monday.
The CM is at the old private ward and is not undergoing any procedures, according to doctors at the hospital. He has been admitted under Dr Pramod Garg, a professor of gastroenterology , who specialises in pancreatic diseases.
“He has been kept under observation and his previous course of treatment is being followed. He is not critical,” said a doctor on condition of anonymity.
(With inputs from HTC in Delhi)