Panaji/New Delhi, March 14 (IANS) BJP leader Manohar Parrikar, who quit as the Defence Minister a day earlier, was sworn-in as Goa Chief Minister for the fourth time on Tuesday. The Supreme Court directed his new government to prove its majority via a floor test in the state assembly on Thursday.
The Congress has accused Goa Governor Mridula Sinha of acting unilaterally and inviting the Bharatiya Janata Party to form a government in Goa, without even meeting the 17 elected leaders of the Congress, which has emerged the largest party in the 40-member assembly after the state elections.
The Goa Governor administered the oath of office to Parrikar at Raj Bhavan on Tuesday evening.
While Parrikar and his nine-member cabinet were being sworn-in, hundreds of people protested near Raj Bhavan, accusing the newly appointed Chief Minister and the leader of Goa Forward of trying to subvert the electoral mandate and using unfair means to come to power in the coastal state.
Speaking to reporters after being sworn-in, Parrikar said the support garnered by the Bharatiya Janata Party was for the development of Goa.
“If there was support, then why did you (Congress) not go to the Governor? The support extended to BJP to form government is only for Goa’s development,” Parrikar told reporters after the swearing-in ceremony.
The four-time Chief Minister also said the Congress could not stake claim to form government because “no MLA wanted to support the Congress”.
Parrikar’s cabinet includes two ministers from the BJP, namely Francis D’Souza and Pandurang Madkaikar, three from regional party Goa Forward — namely Vijai Sardesai, Vinod Palienkar and Jayesh Salgaonkar, and two from another, older regional party Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party — Sudin Dhavalikar and Manohar Azgaonkar.
Two Independent legislators Govind Gawde and Rohan Khaunte who joined the BJP coalition bandwagon on Sunday also were rewarded with berths. The third Independent MLA Prasad Gaonkar also joined the BJP coalition on Monday and tendered his letter of support to the Governor.
The 13-member BJP legislature party — the second largest after tghe Congress’s 17 — has been supported by three MLAs each from the Goa Forward and MGP and three Independent MLAs, taking the majority headcount to 22.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also congratulated Parrikar on his new appointment.
“Congratulations to @manoharparrikar and his team on being sworn in. My best wishes in taking Goa to new heights of progress,” Modi said in a tweet.
Earlier on Tuesday, hectic political developments played out in Goa as well as the national capital, where the Supreme Court, which was hearing a petition filed by the Congress challenging the Governor’s invitation to the BJP to form government, directed Parrikar to prove his majority on the floor of the Goa assembly by Thursday.
Governor Sinha while inviting Parrikar on Sunday to form the government had directed him to prove his majority in the assembly within 15 days from being sworn-in.
The apex court on the Congress petition, however, refused to interfere with the Governor’s decision to appoint Parrikar as the Chief Minister.
Before the Supreme Court hearing, the Congress camp met at the state party headquarters, from where its 17 newly-elected legislators, in presence of Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh, were ferried to Raj Bhavan in a bus.
After meeting Sinha, state Congress President and Navelim MLA Luizinho Faleiro said the party had requested her that the Congress should be allowed to form a government as the single largest party with 17 MLAs as against the BJP’s 13. To this, the Governor said that she would consider the request.
“Governor is the custodian of law and Constitution and is supposed to invite the single largest party to office… There cannot be a headcount here, it has to be in the assembly… Governor has told us that she will consider it and let us know,” Faleiro told reporters.
In the evening, when Parrikar and his cabinet were being sworn-in several hundred civil society members protested with black flags around Raj Bhavan, claiming both the BJP and Sardesai had hijacked the people’s mandate.
Sardesai’s Goa Forward had led an anti-BJP campaign in the run-up the February 4 elections, accusing the saffron party of destroying Goa and corruption.
The apex court also rejected the plea by senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi for a composite floor test.
The directions came after Congress legislature party leader in the Goa assembly Chandrakant Kavlekar moved a plea, seeking Governor Sinha’s decision to appoint Parrikar as the Chief Minister to be put on hold.
The Congress termed Sinha’s decision to invite the BJP to form the next government as “unilateral” and accused the BJP of “stealing” the mandate in the state using money.
“It’s a question of how much money the BJP has thrown to steal the mandate in Manipur and Goa. That’s the question,” Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi told the media outside Parliament in New Delhi.
Inside Parliament House, Congress members slammed the BJP, which they said was “not accepting people’s mandate” in Manipur and Goa and staged a walkout from the Lok Sabha after Speaker Sumitra Mahajan disallowed their adjournment motion notice on the issue.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) members also joined the Congress in the walkout.