Amid lingering suspense over who is going to be Goa’s next Chief Minister, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders from the coastal State, including caretaker Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top party brass in New Delhi on Wednesday. While an official announcement is pending, there is widespread speculation that Mr. Sawant is likely to continue as the Goa CM for a second term. According to sources, the announcement was likely to be made immediately after Holi festivities, on March 20 or 21.
Following the party’s decisive performance in the election, there has been lively interest over whether Mr. Sawant would carry on as the next CM, especially given his wafer-thin victory margin in his constituency Sanquelim as opposed to the emphatic performance of his party colleague and rival Vishwajit Rane, who has long been eyeing the CM’s post.
While Mr. Sawant, seeking a third-term from Sanquelim, could defeat his challenger — the Congress’ Dharmesh Saglani — by a margin of just 666 votes, Mr. Rane, the son of stalwart Congressman Pratapsingh Rane, won by a big margin of more than 8,000 votes from Valpoi, the fiefdom of the Rane clan.
Earlier today, Mr. Sawant, along with Goa BJP president Sadanand Shet Tanavade, met with the PM and later with BJP national president J. P. Nadda.
Following the meeting, the PM tweeted from his official handle: “Met Dr. Pramod Sawant and the team of BJP Goa…Our party is grateful to the people of Goa for blessing us yet again with the mandate to serve the State. We will keep working for Goa’s progress in the times to come.”
The BJP, which emerged as the single-largest party in the recently concluded Goa Assembly election by winning 20 of the 40 seats, is yet to form the new government in Goa.
While the party’s vote share did not increase dramatically since the 2017 Assembly election, this was nonetheless the BJP’s best performance since 2012, with the saffron party now poised to form a government for the third consecutive time.
Following the results on March 10, three independents and the two MLAs of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) — which had fought the election on an anti-BJP plank in alliance with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) — immediately pledged unconditional support to the BJP.
The issue of taking the MGP along is proving to be a thorny one as a number of newly-elected BJP MLAs are resolutely opposed to having any truck with Goa’s oldest party, which was until recently a long-time ally and an “elder brother” to the BJP.
While the BJP’s Goa election in-charge Devendra Fadnavis, along with C. T. Ravi, the BJP Goa’s desk in-charge, had announced that the party would like to take the MGP along in the new government, several Goa BJP leaders, particularly MLAs who won in constituencies adjoining those of MGP leaders Sudin Dhavalikar and Jit Arolkar, are unhappy with “needlessly” accommodating the latter party.
Mr. Dhavalikar, the old warhorse who won from his constituency Marcaim for the seventh time by a massive margin of around 10,000 votes, is being accused of rank opportunism by BJP leaders.
The BJP’s Panaji MLA Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate said that if Mr. Dhavalikar wanted to be part of the new government, then he ought to merge the MGP with the BJP, a suggestion that has not gone down well with Mr. Dhavalikar.
Prior to the election, the MGP leader, who had been dumped unceremoniously from his post of Goa’s Deputy Chief Minister by Mr. Sawant in 2019, had vowed never again to ally with a BJP led by Mr. Sawant.
Touted as a “kingmaker” by exit polls that had projected the MGP winning four-five seats, Mr. Dhavalikar’s hopes were dashed after the results on March 10 took the ground off his feet and rendered the existence of his nearly 60-year-old party untenable.