Nitin Gadkari arrives in Panaji for BJP legislature meet

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NEW DELHI: Union minister Nitin Gadkari arrived in Goa in the early hours of Monday by a midnight flight to decide on the leadership issue in the state following the demise of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Parrikar (63) died on Sunday evening at his residence near here after battling pancreatic cancer for over a year.

Gadkari, who had successfully managed to cobble together a coalition in the state under the leadership of Parrikar in 2017, will be holding discussions with the BJP Goa legislature wing during the night.

The senior leader is also scheduled to meet alliance partners, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Goa Forward Party and Independents, who had given support to the Parrikar-led government.

“The new chief minister will be sworn in by tomorrow morning,” a senior BJP functionary said.

Asked if they would continue to support the BJP, the alliance partners said “no one should not be taken for granted” as their support was to Parrikar when the government was formed in 2017.

Parrikar, who was the then Union defence minister, had taken over the reigns of the state after the BJP failed to get a majority in the 2017 Goa Legislative Assembly election.

“No one can be taken for granted. But we all want this government to survive. No one can afford the dissolution of the assembly or keeping the House in suspended animation,” Goa Forward Party chief Vijai Sardesai told reporters here Sunday evening after a meeting that was attended by leaders of his party, the MGP and Independents.

Sardesai said the alliance partners will take a stand only after the BJP legislative party decides its leader.

BJP MLA Michael Lobo asserted that the next chief minister has to be from the BJP. “The next CM will have to be amongst BJP MLAs,” he said.

MGP leader Sudin Dhavalikar, however, said nothing was finalised and a decision on leadership would be taken only after meeting Gadkari.

Meanwhile, the Congress on Sunday evening wrote a fresh letter to state Governor Mridula Sinha, staking claim to form the government.

Stating that it is the single largest party in the state, the Congress said it should be invited by the governor to form the government.

The Congress is currently the single largest party in the state with 14 MLAs, while the BJP has 12 in the 40-member Goa assembly. The Goa Forward Party, MGP and Independents have three MLAs each, while the NCP has one legislator.

The strength of the House has been reduced to 36 due to the demise of BJP MLA Francis D’Souza earlier this year, and Parrikar on Sunday, and the resignations of two Congress MLAs Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte last year.