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Congress'Goa setback

CongressGoa setback

In a dramatic turn of events, two Congress MLAs, Dayanand Sopte and Subhash Shirodkar, took a midnight flight to New Delhi on Monday and called on BJP national President Amit Shah before announcing to join the saffron party on Tuesday. They also sent their resignation from the state Legislative Assembly, which was accepted by the Goa Assembly Speaker Pramod Sawant. Though speculations were rife for some time that the two lawmakers may join BJP, Sopte and Shirodkar had never publicly admitted that they were contemplating any move to change the party. Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane, who is considered to be a front-runner to replace Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar who has been critically ill and bed-ridden for past few months, is said to have brokered the deal between the defecting Congress lawmakers and BJP top leadership. Rane is believed to have convinced the BJP leadership that he can get some Congress MLAs to join BJP if his claim for the Chief Minister's post is taken seriously by the party. After the defection of these two lawmakers, Congress is left with only 14 members in the 40-member Goa Assembly. BJP, too, has 14 MLAs while it has the support of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the Goa Forward Party, both with three lawmakers each, three independent lawmakers and one legislator from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Ever since the Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala invited BJP to form the government after the party emerged as the single largest party but short of the majority mark in the Assembly election in May this year, Congress has been demanding that the Goa Governor should dissolve the BJP-led coalition government and invite Congress to form the government as with 16 members, it is the single largest party in the Goa Assembly. Recently, Congress had petitioned President Ram Nath Kovind for a direction to the Goa Governor in this context. With two of its MLAs walking out, Congress no longer enjoys the status of being the single largest party in the state Assembly and thereby, its demand for a chance to form government also stands blunted. Sopte and Shirodkar are expected to be rewarded with some lucrative assignments in the government but not as ministers.

For past some months, the incumbent CM has been ailing and absent from his office, giving rise to a political vacuum. As the normal functioning of the government came to a standstill in absence of CM, BJP's coalition partners were becoming restless and demanding an early resolution of the issue, that is appointing a new chief minister. But BJP did not want to replace Parrikar because of his stature and his ability to take along all the coalition partners in the government. Congress, too, was trying to cash in on the political crisis created by Parrikar's absence. It hoped to rope in some of the BJP's coalition partners to join hands with the party and form its own coalition government in the state. The defection of two of its MLAs has come as a serious setback to the party's efforts to come back to power. But for Congress, there is more trouble in store as one of the defecting MLAs said that two or three Congress MLAs could be joining BJP in coming days. As BJP's popularity rapidly expands across the country and more and more states are falling in its kitty, the party has a huge task of crisis management in all the states where it is in power. In Goa, it has to oversee a smooth transition of power from the incumbent Chief Minister to the next one. In Jammu & Kashmir, it has to spell out its plans after pulling out of the coalition led by PDP's Mehbooba Mufti. In three major states where it is in power -- Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan -- Assembly elections are due before the end of this year. In two of these states -- Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh -- BJP is in power for the past three consecutive terms. There are strong indications that the anti-incumbency factor may lead to the defeat of BJP in some of these states. Mizoram and Telangana, where non-BJP parties are in power, will go to polls along with these states. BJP has to see if it can improve its performance in these two states.

If Goa is an example as to how BJP is going to fix the problems that it faces, Congress and other opposition parties have a lot to worry about. The biggest problem that they face is keeping their flock together in the face of BJP's unhindered victory march. Unlike before, the top BJP leadership led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah has shown a great deal of appetite for electoral success.

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