Hours after thousands bid farewell to Manohar Parrikar in Panjim on Monday, legislative assembly speaker and two-time BJP legislator Pramod Sawant emerged as the consensus candidate for the Goa chief minister’s post.
Sawant was to be sworn in as the chief minister at 11pm at the Raj Bhavan in Panjim on Monday.
He may have to work with two deputy chief ministers from allied parties propping up the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led minority government.
Sawant, 44, is an Ayurvedic doctor and has been a close confidant of Parrikar.
Like Parrikar, the two-time MLA from Sanquelim has been associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s parent organization, and enjoys its support.
The BJP top brass represented by president Amit Shah and Union minister Nitin Gadkari, who is the BJP’s Goa in-charge, spent several hours in meetings with party legislators and allies, Maharashtravadi Gomantak Paksha (MGP) and Goa Forward Party (GFP), to select Parrikar’s successor.
A senior BJP leader associated with developments in Goa admitted the “political compromise to have two deputy chief ministers meant that Parrikar’s death has weakened the BJP".
“In the assembly of 40, we have 12 members and two deputy chief ministers from the allies. The allies were supporting us when Manohar bhai was chief minister, but he was the unquestioned boss. Sawant may not have the same stature," he said, requesting anonymity.
The discussions over the next chief minister began on Sunday midnight in the presence of Gadkari and continued till late night on Monday.
The only break came during the funeral services in the evening.
By the evening, the BJP had zeroed in on Sawant, with the key condition that both the MGP and the GFP would get the posts of deputy chief ministers. MGP leader and Goa minister Sudin Dhavalikar and GFP chief and minister Vijay Sardesai are likely to be the deputy chief ministers.
Even as mourners paid their last respects to Parrikar at the Kala Academy, the opposition Congress sent a delegation under leader of the opposition Chandrakant Kavalekar to governor Mridula Sinha without an appointment and staked its claim to form the government on the grounds that it was the single largest party.
“She acknowledged that we are the single-largest party and assured that an appropriate decision will be taken," Kavalekar said.
Goa’s energy minister Nilesh Cabral and art and culture minister Govind Gaude said Sawant’s name has been shortlisted for the chief minister’s post.
Another BJP leader, also requesting anonymity, said the party had considered health minister Vishwajeet Rane’s name for the post, but there was no unanimity on this.
State BJP president Vinay Tendulkar earlier indicated that the party was keen on choosing the next chief minister on Monday itself. Tendulkar announced that the new chief minister would take oath at 3pm, even before Parrikar was cremated. However, the oath-taking ceremony could not take place as the consensus on Sawant came only after 6pm.