When Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant requested deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Michael Lobo to abruptly end his Dubai trip and return to Panaji as early as possible, politicians in the state knew something big was going to happen.
Within hours of him landing in Goa, Lobo gave his approval to a group of MLAs from Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and their subsequent merger with the BJP at 1:45 am on March 27.
Manohar Ajgaonkar and Dipak Pawaskar quit the party after MGP president Deepak Dhavalikar threatened to part ways from BJP and support Congress to form government.
As they formed a two-third strength in MGP, they were saved from inviting an anti-defection law, which makes it mandatory that two-third of the strength should agree to the merger.
Pawaskar, who is likely to be replaced by deputy CM Sudin Dhavalikar in the Cabinet, claimed that their decision was in public interest as people from his constituency Sanvordem wanted him to join BJP.
“We were also resigned to the fact that we could not take MGP forward in the state,” he said.
Ajgaonkar is already a minister with tourism portfolio. A visibly shaken Sudin Dhavalikar said, “People and time will tell what is right.”
Lobo argued that there was nothing ethically wrong in facilitating a political split at 1:45 am. He said the job of a Speaker is 24 hours.
“When an MLA wants to meet the Speaker he has to be available. Both MLAs called me and wanted to meet me in order to merge with the BJP. I had to meet them,” he said.
With this development, the BJP has equalled Congress with 14 seats each in the 40-member Legislative Assembly. At present, four seats – Mandrem, Mapusa, Panaji and Shiroda – are vacant. Out of them, by-election for three seats is scheduled on April 23.
State BJP president Vinay Tendulkar claimed that the party has moved inches closer towards stability of the government as it is short of six from the simple majority by its own.
The party is expecting to retain three seats except Shiroda, where Deepak Dhavalikar will be a tough rival. However, hurt with the BJP’s move the MGP is likely to join hands with the Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM), led by Subhash Velingkar, a former RSS official, in Mandrem and Congress in Mapusa.
The Congress candidate in Mapusa is Sudhir Kandolkar, who recently defected from BJP. The MGP might back him. The by-election for Panaji, which has been vacant since the demise of then CM Manohar Parrikar, has not yet been announced. However, an influential independent Atanasio Monserrate, who was close to Parrikar, has announced his candidature from there.
The induction of Ajgaokar and Pawaskar is likely to boost the unrest among loyal BJP workers.
Former CM Lakshmikant Parsekar is already upset with the induction of former Congress MLA Dilip Sopte.
Ajgaonkar joining BJP will be the end of senior BJP leader Rajendra Arlekar’s, the former Assembly Speaker, aspirations as he might have to give up his constituency Pernem for a new entrant.