The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led ruling coalition in Goa under new chief minister Pramod Sawant faces a floor test in the legislative assembly on Wednesday. Sawant told Mint in an interview that the coalition was confident of winning the support of 21 MLAs in the 40-member assembly. The strength of the assembly, however, has shrunk to 36 due to the resignation and defection of two Congress legislators last year and death of BJP legislators Francis D’Souza and Manohar Parrikar.

“With our 12 legislators and 9 from our allies Maharashtravadi Gomantak Paksha (MGP) and Goa Forward Party (GFP) as well as three independents, we will easily clear the floor test," Sawant said.

The floor test has been necessitated by the death of chief minister Manohar Parrikar, followed by the swearing-in of Sawant, two deputy chief ministers and nine other ministers in the early hours of Tuesday. The opposition Congress, which has staked claim three times since last Saturday to form the government, on Tuesday said the swearing-in was illegal and accused the BJP of pushing the state into constitutional breakdown. “There was no government in Goa for 30 hours. The assembly should have been suspended. How could the governor in that situation declare seven-day mourning when there was no government in Goa," said Goa Congress media cell convener Trojano D’Mello at a press conference. The BJP had resorted to blatant abuse of the governor’s office and governor Mridula Sinha was acting as the BJP’s agent, he charged. Asked why the Congress had failed to form the government in 2017 and now when it was the single largest party, D’Mello asked a counter-question. “How can we form the government when we are not invited to form the government," he said.

Though Sawant exuded confidence that the coalition was confident of winning the floor test, the BJP showed signs of nervousness as party functionaries indicated that ailing legislator Pandurang Madkaikar may also be made to attend the proceedings to cast his vote. Madkaikar has been bedridden for more than eight months and may have to be brought in on a stretcher, a BJP functionary in Panjim said requesting anonymity.

The floor test assumes significance for both the BJP and Sawant. For the BJP, winning the floor test is essential to re-establish itself as the leading party of the coalition. “Parrikar’s death has resulted in a situation wherein the allies MGP and GFP have become confident that they can extract more from us. For instance, the MGP is still saying that it would contest the Shiroda assembly bypoll against the BJP candidate even though it agreed to withdraw from the fray yesterday when the new chief minister was chosen. This wouldn’t have happened if Parrikar was around. But if we convincingly win the floor test, which we will, the MGP will fall in line," said a senior Goa BJP leader who did not want to be named. He said even with 12 legislators, the BJP wanted to conduct itself as the “most credible political force in the state and did not want the allies to be lured away by the Congress".

For Sawant, the floor test is an opportunity to prove his mettle and establish his credentials as the top BJP leader in the state. A veteran state BJP leader and former minister in the Parrikar cabinet told Mint that Parrikar’s death was actually an opportunity for Sawant to establish his leadership. “The advantage for Pramod is that there is no Parrikar who acted like a super chief minister when he was the defence minister and Laxmikant Parsekar was the chief minister. Every weekend, Parrikar would be in Goa and all ministers as well as bureaucrats would visit him with files. This obviously rattled Parsekar and told him who was the boss. Sawant has no such worries but to establish his leadership credentials, he has to win the floor test in a convincing manner and get on with the job," said the BJP veteran seeking anonymity.

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