Panaji: In a major blow to the Congress party, which has been battling hard to manage the coalition government in Karnataka, 10 Congress legislators in Goa along with the Leader of Opposition have joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday.
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said, "Ten Congress MLAs, along with their leader, have merged with the BJP. The strength of the BJP has now risen to 27. They had come for the development of the state and their constituency. They have not put forward any condition, they have joined us unconditionally."
Speaking on the development, Goa Assembly Speaker Rajesh Patnekar said, "Today 10 Congress MLAs gave one letter to me that they are merging with BJP. The second letter was given by Goa CM Pramod Sawant that the strength of BJP has been changed. I have accepted both the letters."
Confirming the development, the Deputy Speaker of Goa Legislative Assembly, Michael Lobo said, "Under Schedule 10 of Constitution, the Congress legislators have done the merger. With this 2/3rd of the Congress' legislators have joined the BJP."
On joining the BJP, former Congress leader Chandrakant Kavlekar, who was the leader of the opposition, said, "We have joined BJP today because the chief minister is doing good work. I was the Leader of Opposition. Despite that, development work in our constituency could not be done. Despite being the single largest party we could not form the govt."
Blaming the Congress party for this development, Kavlekar further said, "If no development is done, people will not choose us next time. They (Congress) couldn't fulfill the promises they made. There were several opportunities to form the government but due to lack of unity among some senior leaders, it could never be done. So, we took this decision."
The development has come two days after the Deputy Chief Minister of Goa Vijai Sardesai compared the Congress MLAs to monkeys after there were speculations of Congress MLAs defecting to the BJP. Congress had disapproved the language of Sardesai.
"The language used by Sardesai does not behoove a deputy chief minister. No one from Congress is willing to join the BJP anymore. We have our flock intact and we will show our strength during the upcoming monsoon session of the assembly," Press Trust of India quoted the Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar.
The BJP with 27 MLAs has become the major political party in the 40-member Goa Legislative Assembly. While the Congress is left with just five legislators, the assembly may not have the Leader of Opposition as no political party has the requisite number.
The elections were held in Goa in the year 2017 wherein the Congress emerged as the single largest party with 17 seats and the BJP lagged behind by four seats.
BJP, however, was able to form the government with the support of regional parties. The Congress had alleged the move to be unconstitutional.
After the results of the election in 2017, the regional parties had agreed to support the BJP on the condition that Late Manohar Parrikar is made the chief minister.
Parrikar, who was then the Defence Minister, was moved back to lead the state. After his death, Sawant took charge of the state.