Congress loses largest party tag in Goa

In a serious jolt to the Congress’s bid to form an alternative government in Goa, two of its MLAs resigned and joined the BJP—a development that comes as a boost to the saffron party and deprives the Congress of its single largest party status in the assembly.

With the resignation of the two Congress MLAs, Dayanand Sopte and Subhash Shirodkar, the Congress’s strength in the 40-member assembly has been reduced to 14, bringing it on a par with that of the BJP.

The MLAs said the Congress could not settle its leadership issues.

With the resignation of Sopte and Shirodkar, the House strength is reduced to 38.

While BJP has 14 MLAs, its alliance partners — Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Goa Forward Party  — have three each, with three independents also supporting the government.

The inductions are a relief for BJP, dispelling speculation that the government has become unstable in the wake of CM Manohar Parrikar’s long illness and frequent hospitalisation in Mumbai, Delhi and US.

The leaders are seen to be influential, with Sopte having defeated incumbent CM Laxmikant Parsekar in the assembly polls. Shirodkar and Sopte joined BJP in the presence of Union ministers Piyush Goyal and Shripad Naik, state party president Vinay Tendulkar and health minister Vishwajit Rane in Delhi.

Rane, who played a key role in winning over the MLAs, is also a top contender to succeed Parrikar if a decision on his replacement needs to be taken. The inductions will shore up BJP ranks that had been hurt in the last state polls by differences with a section of the RSS with Sangh organiser Subhash Velingkar floating a new party. The two MLAs joined BJP in Delhi after a meeting with party president Amit Shah. They faxed their resignation letters to Speaker Pramod Sawant, who after confirming with them over telephone, accepted the letters.

Top BJP sources said the exodus from Congress may continue with two more MLAs waiting in the line to quit and join the party. It was ‘ghar wapasi’ for Sopte while Shirodkar, a former president of the Congress state unit, had left after he felt isolated and without political options.

Though Congress had staked claim to form the government as the single largest party, sources said the state unit was not interested and was waiting for the disgruntled coalition partners to quit the alliance. The Congress thinking was it would benefit the most, considering that the groundswell was against the BJP.

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