Goa CM meets Shah, 10 Cong MLAs formally join BJP

Drama in Goa as 10 of 15 Cong MLAs seek merger with ruling BJP
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New Delhi: Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant held deliberations with BJP president Amit Shah and other senior leaders on Thursday over the likely reshuffle of his Cabinet as 10 Congress MLAs formally took the saffron party's membership here.

The 10 MLAs had crossed over to the BJP on Wednesday.

Sawant arrived in the national capital with these MLAs and met Shah and BJP working president J P Nadda.

There was no official word over what transpired in his meeting with the top party brass but sources said a Cabinet reshuffle in Goa is likely with the induction of the 10 MLAs.

Sawant will have to drop current ministers, many of whom are BJP allies whose support was crucial to his government's survival, to accommodate the defectors from the Congress.

With its numbers in the 40-member assembly swelling to 27, the BJP is no longer dependent on its allies, including Goa Forward party and Independents.

With the Congress accusing the BJP of "murder of democracy" over its MLAs' switchover, the Goa chief minister asserted that they have joined his party "willingly" and "unconditionally". They want to push development work in the state, he said.

Chandrakant Kavlekar, who was the leader of the opposition in the assembly before he spearheaded a coup in his own party and joined the BJP along with nine other MLAs, told reporters that they wanted development work in their constituencies.

It was not possible if they were in the opposition, he claimed.

He also cited the "struggle" in the Congress, an apparent hit at the party's leadership crisis after its president Rahul Gandhi resigned following its rout in the recent Lok Sabha polls, and wondered how long they could have continued in such conditions.

He also praised policies of the state and central governments, saying they had made a good impact.

After the 2017 assembly polls, a hung assembly had emerged, with Congress winning 17 and BJP 13 seats. But the BJP outsmarted the Congress by cobbling together a coalition quickly. With steady erosion from its ranks, the Congress's strength is now only five.

No clarity on allies' fate

The induction of ten Congress MLAs into the BJP in Goa has put a question mark on the fate of the saffron party's allies, with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant saying that no decision has been taken about them yet.

With the BJP's strength in the 40-member Goa Assembly increasing to 27 with two-thirds of Congress legislators joining it, the Sawant government does not need allies' support any longer.

Sawant, who is in the national capital along with the ten MLAs, met party president Amit Shah Thursday.

“We have not taken any decision on coalition partners. We will take the decision when we return to Goa," Sawant told PTI over phone from Delhi.

It is believed that Sawant and Shah discussed cabinet reshuffle.

Sawant will have to drop some of the current ministers to accommodate the defectors from the Congress.

Three MLAs of the Goa Forward Party (GFP) and as many independents are part of the BJP-led coalition in the coastal state. All three MLAs of GFP including its chief Vijai Sardesai and independents Rohan Khaunte and Govind Gawade are part of Sawant's cabinet.

The 2017 assembly polls threw up a hung assembly with Congress emerging as the single largest party with 17 MLAs.

However, a quick-footed BJP, with 13 MLAs, managed to form government with the help of GFP, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and independents.

In March this year, two of the three MGP MLAs joined the BJP, while senior MGP leader Sudin Dhavalikar, then deputy chief minister, was dropped from the cabinet.

Sardesai, who is deputy chief minister, said Thursday that his party remained "steadfast with this government in good and bad times".

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