MUMBAI: Even as the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition struggles to save its rickety government in Karnataka, a political quake jolted the Congress party in neighbouring Goa on Wednesday when 10 of its 15 legislators switched to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The setback was all the more embarrassing for the Congress as the breakaway group includes the leader of the Opposition Babu Kavlekar. Also switching sides was Babush Monserrate, who in May won the prestigious Panaji assembly seat which late Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar held for years. One of the 10 MLAs told Mint on the phone that they had decided to merge with the BJP due to the “leadership vacuum in the Congress party at the top" since the Lok Sabha elections.

“It was weighing on the minds of a large number of Congress legislators who today have decided to go with the BJP," said the legislator who did not wish to be named.

Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant told reporters that all 10 Congress legislators have joined the BJP and that the BJP’s strength in the assembly has increased to 27.

“They have joined the BJP for development and progress of Goa," Sawant said.

All these legislators met Goa assembly speaker Rajesh Patnekar on Wednesday evening and sought to join the BJP.

Goa Governor Mridula is out of the state but is likely to return on Thursday, a Goa BJP functionary said on the phone.

“The chief minister may go in for a quick cabinet reshuffle tomorrow (Thursday) or Friday depending on the Governor’s return and include some of these breakaway Congress legislators ministers," the BJP functionary said requesting anonymity. He said Kavlekar may be made the deputy chief minister and senior BJP legislator Michael Lobo, who he said was instrumental in causing this vertical split in the Congress, could be rewarded as a cabinet minister.

In the 40-member Goa assembly, the ruling BJP has 17 legislators and has formed a coalition with the Goa Forward Party’s three MLAs, one legislator from the Maharashtravadi Gomantak Paksha, and two Independents.

“Since these 10 legislators will take the BJP’s strength to 27 in the house, it may not really require the support of GF and MGP and can accommodate some of the former Congress legislators in the government as ministers," said a Panaji-based political analyst, who did not wish to be named.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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