Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today ruled out any leadership change in Goa and said that an ailing Manohar Parrikar would continue to lead the state as the chief minister.
“There was no question of any change in leadership in Goa and Parrikar would continue as the chief minister," said Vinay Tendulkar, president of the Goa BJP and a Rajya Sabha MP. Parrikar is being treated for a serious pancreatic ailment at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) since Saturday and has shown “improvement" in his health, Tendulkar added.
A BJP functionary in Goa, however, told Mint that lack of consensus between the two BJP allies—Maharashtravadi Gomantak Paksha (MGP) and Goa Forward (GF)—over Parrikar’s replacement was the main reason why the BJP had “put off the leadership issue".
“The central team held talks with the core BJP team in Goa as well as MGP and GF. The MGP and GF have contrarian positions and the central team thought status quo was the best option till some consensus emerges," said the BJP functionary, requesting anonymity.
A central BJP team, comprising BJP general secretary and Goa desk in-charge B.L. Santhosh and organising secretary Vijay Puranik, was in Goa today amidst speculation that the party was weighing replacing Parrikar due to his health condition. The central team held talks with the core team of Goa BJP, MGP, and GF. Tendulkar, however, said a leadership change was not on the agenda and the team was in Goa to take stock of the preparations for the BJP state executive’s meeting on 29 September.
Parrikar was flown to Delhi on Saturday even as the opposition Congress, which has 16 legislators in the 40-member Goa assembly, asked the Goa governor “for an opportunity to form a stable government in Goa". Goa Congress president Girish Chodankar cautioned governor Mridula Sinha about a “possible ploy by BJP to impose the President’s Rule in Goa" and demanded an opportunity to form the government.
The BJP in Goa has 14 legislators and Parrikar leads a coalition government in Goa with support of MGP and GF, who have three legislators each, and three independents.
According to the BJP functionary quoted above, the MGP and GF “were rarely on the same page about anything and pushed their personal ambitions when it came to the position of chief minister".
“They have always had their differences and it is only the glue in the form of Parrikar that has kept them together with us. But now the issue is about replacing Parrikar himself and these parties (MGP and GF) are keen to have the position," the BJP functionary said.
The sharp differences between the MGP and GF came to the fore on Saturday when MGP president Deepak Dhavalikar called for handing over the charge of the chief minister’s post to the “senior-most minister" in the cabinet, hinting at his brother and PWD minister Sudin Dhavalikar.
Goa Forward leader and Goa’s city and town planning minister, Vijay Sardesai, promptly rejected this solution saying it was a temporary reprieve that would undermine the stability of the government.
A BJP legislator in Goa, who also requested anonymity, said the BJP was also “keenly" exploring the option of “inducting" the three Independents into the party to increase the BJP numbers. “BJP leader and deputy speaker Michael Lobo is in talks with them," he said.
Elections in February 2017 threw up a hung assembly with the Congress emerging as the single largest party which, however, was out-manoeuvred by the BJP that moved swiftly to put together a coalition. The Congress, which still holds a grouse against the governor as well as Parrikar for “insulting the mandate", reconciled to the position of the main opposition party after the BJP allies spurned efforts to form an alternative coalition.
The Congress, however, has moved in over the last six months to reclaim the chance to form the government after Parrikar’s health deteriorated. Since February 2018, Parrikar has had three rounds of treatment in the US besides being rushed to Mumbai’s Lilavati Hospital and Goa Medical College and Hospital quite a few times.
Mint’s Neetu Chandra Sharma in Delhi contributed to this story.