Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and three–time MLA Dr. Pramod Sawant was sworn–in as Goa’s Chief Minister for the second time on Monday in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top BJP guns at the Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee stadium in Taleigao.
Mr. Sawant, who was first appointed CM of the coastal State following Manohar Parrikar’s untimely death in March 2019, was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor P.S. Shreedharan Pillai along with eight other BJP MLAs who will be Ministers in the new Goa cabinet.
They include (in order of their swearing-in) Vishwajit Rane (Valpoi), Mauvin Godinho (Dabolim), ex–Chief Minister Ravi Naik (Ponda), Nilesh Cabral (Curchorem), Subhash Shirodkar (Shiroda), Rohan Khaunte (Porvorim), Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate (Panaji) and Govind Gaude (Priol).
Tellingly, only BJP MLAs were inducted in the first round of Cabinet formation despite rumours that one of the three independents (who had pledged unconditional support to the BJP after the March 10 results) or Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) leader Sudin Dhavalikar could be part of the team.
The new “BJP 2.0” under Mr. Sawant, who took oath before a packed audience of more than 10,000 people, exuded confidence as the party received a decisive mandate (winning 20 of the 40 seats) as opposed to its performance in 2017, when it secured only 13 and formed the government by being ‘dependent’ on regional power brokers like the MGP and the Goa Forward Party (GFP).
“I’m not a ‘selected’ CM, but an ‘elected’ one,” said a jubilant Mr. Sawant soon after the swearing in. “I thank the central party leadership for giving me a chance again and reposing faith in me.”
Mr. Sawant had managed to retain his constituency Sanquelim after a hard–fought contest defeating his nearest challenger — Congress’ Dharmesh Saglani — by just 666 votes.
Mr. Sawant’s wafer–thin victory margin as opposed to the spectacular performance of his intra–party ‘rival’ Vishwajit Rane — son of stalwart Congressman Pratapsingh Rane — had sparked widespread speculation that the former may not be considered for the CM’s post this time.
“The focus of our new government will be on human development and we expect to get even more support from the Centre in fulfilling our objectives. Under the PM’s leadership, we will work hard to deliver good governance in Goa and achieve the co–ordinated vision of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Swayampurna Goa’,” said Mr. Sawant.
PM Modi tweeted: “Congratulations to Dr. Pramod Sawant and all others who took oath in Goa today. I am confident this entire team will deliver good governance to the people of Goa and build on the pro–people work done in the last decade.”
National president J.P. Nadda, Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari and Shripad Naik, former Maharashtra CM and the party’s election in–charge Devendra Fadnavis, Goa’s BJP desk in–charge C.T. Ravi along with Chief Ministers were present.
While Mr. Sawant, who held his first Cabinet meeting on Monday, refused to clarify when the remaining three berths would be filled, State party president Sadanand Shet Tanavade said it would take place only after a month or even two.
While all the eight BJP MLAs and Mr. Sawant have held portfolios in the State Cabinet in the past, only Mr. Naik, Mr. Monserrate and Mr. Shirodkar were not part of the 2017 BJP government headed first by Parrikar and then Mr. Sawant.
A former Congress veteran, Mr. Naik had switched over to the BJP ahead of the polls in December while another ex–Congressman, Mr. Monserrate, had joined the BJP in July 2019 and was instrumental in engineering the defections of nine other Congress MLAs (including his wife Jennifer Monserrate) to the BJP that left the Goa Congress in doldrums.
In this election, Mr. Monserrate had defeated his rival, BJP rebel and independent candidate Utpal Parrikar, son of Manohar Parrikar, by a thin margin of a little over 700 votes.
Mr. Shirodkar, another former veteran Congressman who had served in the Cabinets of Pratapsingh Rane and ex-Congressman-turned Trinamool Congress leader Luizinho Faleiro, returned to Cabinet after more than 20 years.
The BJP got a decisive 20 seats to coast to victory defying gloomy anti–incumbency predictions and forming a government for the third consecutive term. Its main challenger, the Congress, secured only 11 seats.
Soon after the results, the party was further strengthened after three independents unconditionally pledged their support to the party along with two MLAs from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which had fought the elections in alliance with the Trinamool Congress on an anti–BJP plank.
Cause of resentment
However, the MGP’s opportunistic volte face soon after the results has been a cause of resentment among the Goa BJP leaders, most of whom are opposed to having any truck with it in the government despite Mr. Fadnavis and Mr. Ravi having announced that the party high command wished to take the MGP along in the new government.
According to sources, the three berths have at least four claimants who include Mr. Dhavalikar of the MGP and the three independents — Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco (Curtorim), Dr. Chandrakant Shetye ( Bicholim) and Antonio Vas (Cortalim).