Mumbai/New Delhi: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Manohar Parrikar was sworn in as Goa chief minister on Tuesday evening, hours after the Supreme Court rejected a Congress plea to stay the proceedings, handing him the opportunity to begin his fourth term as CM of the coastal state.
Parrikar, moved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the centre as defence minister in November 2014, resigned from the job on Monday. He had already met governor Mridula Sinha on Sunday and staked claim to form the government, claiming the support of 21 MLAs in the 40-member assembly.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Supreme Court cleared the decks for Parrikar’s swearing in with a caveat to hold a floor test after Goa Congress Legislative Party, or CLP, leader Chandrakant Kavlekar moved the apex court against the governor’s decision to appoint a BJP-led government. The apex court also ordered a floor test on Thursday for Parrikar to prove his claim of majority support.
All 17 Congress legislators also met the governor on Tuesday and sought an opportunity to form the government. However, the governor’s office did not take any decision on the Congress request apparently in view of the coming floor test.
Along with Parrikar, eight other legislators were sworn in as ministers, including two each from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Goa Forward Party who have extended support to the BJP.
Parrikar has included Francis D’Souza, who was deputy chief minister in the previous BJP government, and BJP legislator Pandurang Madkaikar in the cabinet.
Two independents were also sworn in as ministers. BJP president Amit Shah, senior BJP leader and Union minister for transport Nitin Gadkari, who is also BJP in-charge of Goa, and Union minister for urban development Venkaiah Naidu attended the ceremony.
A small crowd of Goans staged protests at Dona Paula circle in Panaji against what they termed the “betrayal of Goa” by the BJP and the parties that had supported it.
Parrikar’s return as chief minister follows three days of hectic politics and sharp manoeuvring by the BJP to outsmart the Congress, which emerged the single largest party, winning 17 seats against the BJP’s 13. The Supreme Court cleared the decks for the swearing in with the caveat that a floor test be held on 16 March. “We request the governor to hold a floor test at 11am on 16 March and complete all prerequisites before 15 March,” said a bench headed by chief justice J.S. Khehar.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the governor, said a floor test can be conducted “as soon as possible”. The court rejected his submission and said a floor test must be conducted forthwith.
Denied the first shot at government formation in Goa despite winning more seats, Congress leader Kavlekar moved the apex court on Monday, challenging the Goa governor’s decision. “The governor cannot elect the government. It is the governor’s constitutional obligation to apply his mind and satisfy himself on who has a right to form the government,” senior advocate and Congress party leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued.
Meanwhile, senior BJP leader and Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, who has taken on the additional charge as defence minister, gave several instances where the governor had not invited the single largest party to form the government, and opted to give the opportunity to a party or combination which had produced evidence of majority support.
Jaitley wrote on Facebook, “The Congress party complains a bit too much. It accused the BJP of ‘stealing’ the mandate in Goa. It unsuccessfully petitioned before the SC. It attempted to raise issues in the Lok Sabha. What are the facts? The Assembly Elections in Goa produced an inconclusive verdict. There was a hung assembly. Obviously in a hung assembly post-poll alliances will be formed. The BJP managed to form an alliance and presented to the governor 21 out of 40 MLAs. They appeared before the governor in person and submitted a letter of support. The Congress did not even submit a claim to the Governor. It had only the support of 17 MLAs. The Congress party protested at the Governor’s decision to invite Mr Manohar Parrikar to form the government with support of 21 out of 40 MLAs and described it as ‘a murder of democracy’,” Jaitley said.
He added that in 2005, when BJP had won 30 out of 81 seats in Jharkhand but JMM leader Shri Shibu Soren with the support of 17 MLAs of his party plus others was invited to form the Government; in 2002 in Jammu & Kashmir the National Conference won 28 seats but the governor invited the PDP & Congress Combination of 15 + 21 MLAs to form the government; in 2013 the BJP won 31 seats in Delhi, but the AAP with 28 MLAs and the support of Congress was invited to form the government.