Goa's 'legally legitimate but morally illegitimate government': Anger in state as BJP stakes claim

Pamela D’Mello

Anger erupted among some sections in Goa on Sunday night as the Bharatiya Janata Party said it had stitched together enough support to continue to run the state government, even though Saturday’s Assembly election results gave the saffron party only 13 seats in the 40-member house.

To some in the state, the BJP’s decision to seek the support of eight members of smaller parties and independents was a direct contradiction of the verdict of the voters.

“It is a legally legitimate but morally illegitimate government,” lawyer and political commentator Cleofato Almeida Coutinho told Scroll.in. You are manipulating the mandate, distorting it and making a fraud of the mandate.”

In the election, eight of the 12 ministers of the government run by the BJP in an alliance with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party lost their seats. Among them was Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar. The BJP’s alliance with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party crumbled in the months leading up to the election.

On Saturday, the Congress emerged as the single largest party with 17 seats. The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Goa Forward Party bagged three seats each, while the Nationalist Congress Party got one. Three independents also emerged victorious.

Stitching it up

Late Sunday night, the three members of the Goa Forward Party – which had positioned itself as being anti-BJP – announced that they were throwing in their lot with the saffron party. Earlier in the day, the BJP obtained the support of the three MLAs of its former ally, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, was well as two independents and staked its claim before Goa Governor Mridula Sinha to form the government.

Their letters of support were conditional on Manohar Parrikar being made chief minister. Parrikar had last served as the state’s chief minister from 2012 to 2014, until he was inducted into the Union cabinet as defence minister. On Sunday, the BJP announced that he would resigned from that central position to return to Goa.

The BJP said its decision to make a bid for government was based on the fact that it had gained the largest vote percentage. But not all voters were convinced by this logic.

“The mandate is clear,” said Raju Nayank, editor of Lokmat newspaper. “The BJP should accept the verdict and sit in the opposition.”

Secular credentials

Coming in for special criticism was the Goa Forward Party, which had projected itself through the campaign as a stauchly secular organisation in opposition to the BJP.

Over the past five years, its leader Vijai Sardessai has been a trenchant critic of the BJP’s policies.

Within minutes of Goa Foward’s legislators meeting the governor, the organisation’s president Prabhakar Timble resigned mailed his letter to the media.

“I found the decision a bit abrasive and abrupt,” he told Scroll.in. “Not that the BJP is untouchable. Our main plank was to keep the BJP out of power. So the first thing was we should have supported the Congress to form the government and if that were not possible then we could have considered other alternatives.”

He added: “I don’t want to be the face of the party in this situation.”

However, Timble said he would not leave the Goa Foward Party. “Why should I not continue with the party?” he asked. “The BJP and Congress make hundreds of mistakes but their members dont leave”, was his logic.”

Other supporters of the party were more critical.

Cardiologist Dr Francisco Colaco who was a staunch supporter of the party and its general secretary Vijai Sardessai described the alliance as a meeting of devils. ”Today we are faced with the greatest betrayal of all times,” he said.

In the morning, when it emerged that the Goa Foward Party was negotiating with the BJP, Colaco took to social media to say, “ Beware GFP. Please don’t upset the verdict. I’ve given my heart and soul to support GFP....The Fatorda electorate is restivr and closely watching the developments. Beware.”

Another supporter of the Goa Forward Party, lawyer Cleofato Almeida Coutinho said it was a personal blow to him. “The GFP might not have had an alliance with the Congress leadership, but the Congress people and the Congress voters were with them,” he said. “They have let down all these people.”

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