In a shocking move, a group of 10 Congress MLAs in Goa led by Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Chandrakant Kavlekar on Wednesday merged with the ruling BJP, increasing the saffron party's strength to 27 in the 40-seat house. The Congress, which had emerged as single-largest party after 2017 Assembly polls in the coastal state, has now been reduced to five legislators.
Interestingly, four of the five remaining Congress MLAs had been chief ministers of Goa previously.
Here’s the list of four sitting MLAs who were Goa CM:
Aleixo Lourenco is the only leader in the remaining five sitting Congress MLAs who has never been a CM.
The MLAs who joined the BJP along with Kavlekar are Atanasio Monserratte, Jeniffer Monserratte, Francis Silveira, Philip Nery Rodrigues, Cleaofacio Dias, Wilfred D'Sa, Nilkant Halarnkar, Isidor Fernandes and Antonio Fernandes.
The BJP has now 27 MLAs, its ally Goa Forward Party three MLAs, Congress has five while NCP and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) have one MLA each. Three independent MLAs are BJP's allies.
After the 2017 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.
Accompanied by Kavlekar and nine other Congress MLAs, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced that two thirds of the Congress Legislative Party -- enough to avoid action under the anti-defection law -- has merged into the BJP.
The letter of merger was handed over to Speaker Rajesh Patnekar in Sawant's presence on Wednesday evening. Patnekar later said that he had received the letter.
The chief minister said with this, the BJP's numbers have gone up to 27 on the floor of the House. The Congress MLAs had expressed willingness to join the BJP, he said. At this juncture the BJP had not taken any decision as to its coalition partners (whether to keep them in government or not), he added. With 27 MLAs, the party does not allies anymore.
"At least for now we have not decided anything," he said.
The monsoon session of the Assembly is scheduled to begin from July 15.
To a question, Sawant said no new inductions in the state cabinet were on cards.
Kavlekar said he and other MLAs decided to join the BJP as development works in their constituencies were suffering as they were in opposition.
"We have seen Sawant's working style. He is working for the progress of the state. We decided to join hands with him. Being in opposition, our development works were also suffering," Kavlekar said.
They joined the BJP unconditionally, he claimed.
Sawant and the 10 newly inducted MLAs would be leaving for Delhi on Wednesday night to meet the BJP high command, party sources said.
(With PTI inputs)