The Goan election impasse (Opinion)

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The results of the Goa Assembly were declared on March 10, along with those of the rest of the states that went to the polls — Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur. The BJP led by incumbent Chief Minister Pramod Sawant secured 20 seats. It was just one shy of the majority mark in a 40-member Assembly.

The two winning MLAs of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which fought the elections in a pre-poll alliance with Mamata Banerjee-led TMC, Sudin Dhavalikar and Jit Vinayak Arolkar, extended support to the government led by Pramod

Sawant for a third consecutive term. The first hint of this tie-up came from former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who said: “That the two parties are ideologically aligned.”

Three Independent MLAs — Chandrakant Shetye (Bicholim), Alexio Reginado Lourence (Curtorim) and Antonio Vaz (Cortalim) –have given letters of support. This gives Pramod Sawant an absolute majority.

Ravi Naik, a former chief minister, and Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate, protested the tie-up with the MGP. Vishwajit Rane, the health minister in the outgoing government and son of senior Congress MLA Pratap Singh Rane, then created a flutter by calling on the Governor, P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, soon after.

Rane termed it as a “courtesy call”. But on the day the MLAs were sworn in, his wife, Deviya Vishwajit Rane, said: “He is ready to take over as chief minister as he has 15 years of political experience, but the final decision will be taken by the party leadership.”

Caretaker CM Pramod Sawant’s name has been cleared by the BJP’s central leadership comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP President J.P. Nadda to continue for a third term. Then why the inordinate delay?

Although it has been 10 days since the election results were declared, the Governor has not invited the largest party to form the government. This has created an impasse. This delay has thrown up a number of theories.

A possible split within the BJP legislature party could not be ruled out for the delay; or it could be the inauspicious time before the festival of Holi. And, what if the Congress with 11 members of its own and with the support of the lone Goa Forward Party MLA and the likely support of two MGP MLAs and three Independents stake their claim to form the government?

The two Aam Aadmi Party MLAs — Venzy Viegas from Benaulim and Cruz Silva from Velim — plus the Goan Revolution Party MLA, Viresh Borkar from St. Andre, may support the Congress in its endeavour to form the government.

Vishwajit Rane could break ranks from the BJP and go with a pack of MLAs to form a new government. As of today, there are meetings scheduled between Pramod Sawant, Vishwajit Rane and Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi.

The theory of Vishwajit Rane breaking the party in his endeavor for the coveted position of chief minister is reminiscent of a similar situation in 2017 when former deputy chief minister Chandrakant Kavlekar, with nine MLAs, merged the Congress legislature party with that of the BJP to take the strength of the BJP government led by Pramod Sawant to 27 MLAs. The Congress could undertake a reversal of roles this time around.

Vishwajit Rane has had an acrimonious relationship with Pramod Sawant. This came to a head when the Goa Medical College (GMC) ran out of oxygen during Covid-19 epidemic.

All eyes are now on Governor Sreedharan Pillai. Who will he invite to form the next government. Goa is puzzled and bewildered as there is no precedence in its 60-year-old history that government formation has taken so long.

(Marcellus D’Souza, a former Copy Editor, teaches Journalism at the University of Mumbai)

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