Congress no longer single largest party in Goa (round-up)

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Panaji, Oct 16 (IANS) In a swift masterstroke that brought the legislative strength of BJP and Congress at 14 MLAs each, two Congress legislators on Tuesday resigned and joined the BJP amid charges that the two were threatened to switch sides.

The resignations dull the Congress’ strategic advantage as the single largest party in the now 38-member Goa Assembly, bringing its strength at par with the BJP’s 14.

Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, who formally welcomed the two Congress renegade lawmakers into the party in the national capital, said the switch would help give “a more firm and development-oriented” government in Goa.

On the other hand, All India Congress Committee secretary in-charge of the coastal state A. Chellakumar insisted that the two switched loyalties because of a “fear psychosis”.

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The political drama started late on Monday night after the two MLAs, Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte, told reporters at Goa’s Dabolim International Airport, that they were heading for Delhi for a “reception” and a “business trip” respectively.

On Tuesday, both elected representatives faxed their resignations to Speaker Pramod Sawant before joining the BJP.

“I have accepted their resignations. I asked them telephonically in presence of the Legislature Secretary, if they were doing it under duress. They said they were resigning of their own will,” Sawant said.

Meanwhile, at the formal induction ceremony in Delhi, Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said the induction of the two MLAs, would strengthen the BJP-led coalition government in Goa. “Their joining the BJP will make the Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar-led government in Goa stronger,” Goyal said.

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Reacting to the ‘desertion,’ leader of Opposition and Congress MLA Chandrakant Kavlekar said the move proved that the “BJP could go to any levels to stay in power”.

“We do not know if they were threatened or bribed or what pressure they were under,” Kavlekar told a press conference in Panaji.

Kavlekar said the remaining MLAs were firmly with the party. “All our 14 MLAs are together and are keeping an eye on the situation. Wait and watch,” the leader of Opposition also said.

Kavlekar said Congress would insist with Goa Governor Mridula Sinha for an opportunity to prove a majority on the floor of the House and stake its claim to power.

“We have asked the Governor four times for an opportunity and she has not responded. We have even petitioned the President. We’ll keep up our demand,” Kavlekar said.

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In its petition to the Governor and President, the Congress has repeatedly claimed that in view of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s prolonged illness, it should be given an opportunity to stake its claim to power, being the single-largest party, with 16 MLAs.

Now with two MLAs deserting the Congress ranks, its strength drops to 14, on par with the BJP legislative unit, taking away its numeric advantage on the floor of the House.

The incumbent BJP-led coalition government comprises 14 MLAs from BJP, three each from the Goa Forward and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, three Independent MLAs and one from the Nationalist Congress Party.

–IANS

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