Parrikar takes oath as Goa CM

SC rejects Cong plea, orders floor test on Thursday
Report by: 
Agencies
Panaji
14 Mar 2017

Manohar Parrikar, who quit as defence minister, today took oath as the chief minister of Goa to head a coalition government, three days after the BJP ended up second behind the Congress in a fractured mandate.

Parrikar (61) took oath along with nine MLAs including two members of the BJP, three of the Goa Forward Party, two of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and as many Independents. The BJP stalwart, who resigned as the defence minister on Monday, returned to Goa as the chief minister for fourth time, though he could not complete full terms in his earlier stints. He was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor Mridula Sinha at the Raj Bhawan here, two days after she appointed Parrikar as the chief minister and asked him to prove majority on the floor of the House within 15 days.

BJP president Amit Shah and Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Venkaiah Naidu were present at the swearing-in ceremony. However, the Supreme Court today directed that the floor test be conducted on March 16. It cleared the decks for Parrikar's oath taking by refusing a plea of the Congress to stay the ceremony, saying the BJP has shown the support of 21 out of the 40 newly-elected MLAs. The Congress has emerged as the single largest party by winning 17 seats in the fractured verdict. 

It also directed going ahead with all "pre-requisites of holding the floor test by tomorrow, including the formalities required by the Election Commission" and putting in place the senior most member in the Assembly as the protem speaker. The top court said it was "satisfied" that all the sensitive and contentious issues raised in the petition by Goa Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Chandrakant Kavlekar "can be resolved by a simple direction of holding a floor test".

A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, which held a special sitting as the apex court was on a Holi vacation, however, requested Goa Governor Mridula Sinha to summon the House for the floor test for which the session will commence at 11 am on March 16 and no other business other than holding the floor test will be conducted after the swearing-in of the members which will be completed as soon as possible. The bench, also comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R K Agrawal, refused to interfere with the decision of the Governor and took on record her letter to Parrikar, which took into account that the BJP along with its 13 elected members have the support of members of the regional parties-- Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Goa Forward Party (GFP)--and the independents taking the tally to 21 to attain the magic figure in the 40-member House.

Parrikar said the portfolios will be alloted after the new government proves majority on floor of the Legislative Assembly. Justifying his return to the state, Parrikar said: "Regional parties have taken the lead to form this government and have requested me to lead them by resigning as defence minister." Parrikar's anointment came amid an intense tug-of-war between the BJP and the Congress, which has questioned the legitimacy of the saffron party's bid to power given it has failed to secure the popular mandate. The BJP has enlisted support of three MLAs each of the MGP and GFP and two Independents to attain the halfway mark of 21 in the 40-member Assembly. In the 40-member House, the Congress has 17 MLAs, followed by the BJP with 13, MGP (3), GFP (3), NCP (1) and Independents (3).

The BJP is confident of proving its majority in the Goa Assembly, senior leader Arun Jaitley today said as he thrashed "minority" Congress' argument of not being invited to form the government in the state. Jaitley said with the elections throwing a hung assembly, the BJP quickly cobbled together an alliance of 21 out of 40 newly elected MLAs supporting a government under former defence minister Manohar Parrikar but the Congress with 17 MLAs till date has not elected a leader nor staked a claim to form the government. To buttress his claim, he cited examples of 2013 assembly elections in Delhi, 2002 polls in Jammu and Kashmir and 2005 Jharkhand elections where the BJP despite being the largest party was not invited to form governments.