MGP, Independents may hold key to government formation in Goa

The exit polls had predicted a fractured mandate in the State

Updated - September 30, 2023 02:48 pm IST

Published - March 09, 2022 03:27 am IST - Pune

View of the Goa Assembly. File

View of the Goa Assembly. File | Photo Credit: ATISH POMBURFEKAR

With exit polls yet again predicting a fractured mandate for Goa on counting day on March 10, independent candidates and regional parties like the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) are likely to hold the key to government formation.

From confident claims of being able to secure the magic figure of 21 (of the 40 Assembly seats in Goa) on their own, the two biggest players in the poll fray - the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress – have now toned down their pre-poll rhetoric to begin hectic parleying with the smaller parties.

Sources within the Goa Congress leadership have said that the party was exploring post-poll alliance talks with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and its Goa ally, the MGP, with both Congress election in-charge P. Chidambaram and party desk in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao expressing the party’s willingness to work with non-BJP parties in the post-poll scenario.

Meanwhile, Goa Chief Minister and BJP leader Pramod Sawant, who flew to Delhi on Monday, met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi today to discuss post-poll scenarios and government formation in the coastal state.

“We [the BJP] are fully confident of getting a majority. Even if we get a few seats less, we can form a government with the support of independent candidates,” said Mr. Sawant, whose party had given the slogan of winning ‘22 plus seats’ in the 2022 election in the run-up to the polls.

Following the meeting with the Prime Minister a little after noon, Mr. Sawant said on Twitter: “Briefed the PM about BJP’s strong performance in Goa Assembly Polls 2022 which will provide us the opportunity to form the government in the State once again with people’s blessings.”

According to analysts, with exit polls predicting a neck-to-neck fight between the BJP and the Congress, the loyalties of key independent players like ex-Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, the stalwart BJP leader who rebelled against the party when denied a ticket from Mandrem, Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco, the ex- Congress MLA from Curtorim, and Savitri Kavlekar, the wife of BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Chandrakant Kavlekar, will play an important role in deciding the question of government formation.

But it is the MGP which is suddenly ‘in demand’ after exit polls that showed a rise in the sagging fortunes of Goa’s oldest regional party with a number of poll watchers predicting that it could be a possible ‘kingmaker’.

“With the general prediction being that the MGP could win three or more seats, the BJP and the Congress are trying to woo it. However, given that MGP leader Sudin Dhavalikar had categorically stated before the polls that he would never again ally with the BJP, its long-time partner, the chances are that it would go with the Congress. But then, one cannot be sure of anything in Goa’s twisty politics,” said an election watcher.

Despite being ideologically aligned with the BJP, the MGP’s attrition in the coastal State has been dramatic after 1999, climaxing with the BJP under Pramod Sawant poaching two of the MGP’s three MLAs in 2019 and brusquely sacking five-term MLA Sudin Dhavalikar, the MGP’s senior leader from the deputy chief minister’s post.

According to other sources, the MGP, despite its acrimonious relationship with the BJP, may yet align with its estranged former ally if Mr. Sawant is shunted out as Chief Minister.

Last week, Mr. Dhavalikar had said that no other party could decide on the MGP’s leadership and that his party would decide its stance after the election results by taking its ally, the Trinamool into confidence.

He made it clear that the MGP would never back Mr. Sawant as Chief Minister.

The MGP’s ‘flexibility’ finds a mirror reflection in the Congress’ stance, whose proposals of a post-poll alliance have now included its ‘frenemy’, the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool.

A bitter spat had erupted in the run-up to the Goa Assembly election between the Trinamool and the Congress with the former claiming that Congress leaders had haughtily ‘spurned’ its offer to jointly take on the BJP. The Congress leadership, including Mr. Chidambaram, had countered saying that nothing concrete had been proposed by the TMC.

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