A buoyed Congress is planning to replicate the Karnataka model in Goa and has started back-channel talks with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), a partner in the BJP-led ruling coalition, two top state Congress leaders said on condition of anonymity.
The two Congress leaders, who are key functionaries, said their party is discussing the “modalities” with the MGP in its bid to oust the BJP from power in the coastal state. The deal, they said, would include offering the leadership role to the smaller party as was done in Karnataka.
MGP leader and state public works department minister Ramkrishna ‘Sudin’ Dhavalikar ruled out any understanding with the Congress.
One of the Congress leaders, cited above, said, “We are in talks with the MGP and are willing to support them. The aim is to remove the BJP government.”
When asked if he had been offered the chief minister’s post, Dhavalikar said, “There is no question of seeking any support at this stage. I am already in the government which is doing very well,” he said. “I have not discussed such type of things and I don’t want to discuss also.”
Dhavalikar is at present functioning as the leader of the House in the absence of chief minister Manohar Parrikar who is undergoing treatment in the United States.
But the two Congress leaders insisted that the negotiations with the MGP and independents are on but ruled out any talks with the Goa Forward Party (GFP) leader Vijai Sardesai. “We are talking to MGP and independents but not with Sardesai. His demands are too many,” said the first leader.
“The impact of the Karnataka outcome on Goa is very good. We have already approached the governor to invite the Congress as it is the single largest party in the state assembly,” the second leader said.
In Karnataka, the Congress with 78 legislators offered its support to the JD(S), which bagged 37 seats soon after the results came out. To outsmart the BJP, the grand old party conceded the chief minister’s post to JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy.
In the 40-member Goa assembly, the Congress has 16 legislators, followed by the BJP with 14. The MGP and the GFP have three each. The Nationalist Congress Party has one member while there are three independents. To form a government, a party or a coalition needs 21 members.
The Congress has been demanding the appointment of a “full-time” chief minister in Parrikar’s absence.
As part of its strategy, the Congress has been putting pressure on the BJP to name his replacement, arguing that the state administration is in crisis.
The MGP and the GFP have repeatedly stated that their support to the BJP will continue till Parrikar remains chief minister. Sardesai had even said his party pledged its support to Parrikar and not the BJP.
In the absence of Parrikar, a three-member advisory committee is looking after the day-to-day affairs of the government. Apart from Dhavalikar and Sardesai, the BJP’s Francis D’Souza is also on the panel.
In a pre-recorded video message played at the BJP workers’ meeting in Panaji on May 13, Parrikar, 62, told them that he would be back soon. “I am not there among you all for the last two months as I am undergoing treatment. I will be back in Goa in the next few weeks,” he said.