Panaji: In a major coup, the BJP in Goa late on Wednesday engineered a split in the 15-member Congress legislature party and inducted the 10-member splinter group headed by the leader of opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar into the BJP.
Kavlekar has blamed disunity among senior Congress leaders in Goa and lack of development in the Opposition MLAs’ constituencies as some of the reasons for splitting from the main opposition party.
The stunning development takes the tally of BJP MLAs from 17 to 27 in the state legislative assembly.
The 10 Congress MLAs who are part of the rebel group are Chandrakant Kavlekar, Isidore Fernandes, Francis Silveira, Filipe Neri Rodrigues, Jennifer and Atanasio Monserrate, Antonio Fernandes, Nilakanth Halarnkar, Clafacio Dias and Wilfred D’Sa.
The development brings down the legislative strength of the Congress party to a paltry five MLAs. It includes Digambar Kamat, Luzinho Faleiro, Ravi Naik, Pratapsingh Rane — all of whom have served as Chief Ministers — and MLA Aliexo Reginaldo.
“A group of 10 Congress MLAs, which forms two-thirds of the Congress legislature party, under the leadership of leader of opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar split from their party and merged their group into the BJP today. The BJP’s legislative strength which was 17 earlier now rises to 27”, Sawant told reporters outside the state legislative assembly complex, after the Speaker okayed the merger late on Wednesday.
Sawant also said, that the added strength of 10 MLAs would strengthen the BJP in Goa and help the party deliver better governance. Sawant also said that the merger had been okayed by the party’s High Command. All newly inducted MLAs are expected to leave for Delhi to meet BJP national president Amit Shah.
Kavlekar, who also spoke to reporters at the state legislative assembly complex, also said, that one of the reasons for joining the BJP was lack of unity among senior Congress MLAs, because of whom the party could not stake its claim to form a government in Goa.
“We have joined with a positive thought. We had the opportunity in the past to form a government, but because of lack of unity among our senior MLAs, we were not in a position stake our claim,” Kavlekar said.
When asked if he felt it odd that a leader of Opposition should join a ruling party, Kavlekar said: “Apart from leader of opposition, I am also an MLA of a constituency and it is my duty to ensure that my constituency is looked after”.