As an ailing Goa Chief Minister, Manohar Parrikar was flown to the capital from Panaji for treatment at the AIIMS, race for the top job in the state heated up among BJP’s allies.
The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which has three legislators in the Parrikar-led government, said it was "high time" the chief minister handed over charges to the senior most minister during his absence in the state.
Meanwhile, BJP leaders from Delhi will be visiting Goa on Sunday to assess the political situation in the coastal state. They are also likely to ask the alliance partners to consider a merger with the BJP, a senior BJP leader said on Saturday.
Parrikar, 62, was flown to Delhi on Saturday for a follow-up treatment at AIIMS. According to BJP sources, he was scheduled to undergo a series of tests at the AIIMS.
Parrikar has been undergoing treatment for his pancreatic ailment. Earlier this year, he had undergone a three-month-long treatment in the US. He had formed a Cabinet Advisory Committee to guide the state during his absence.
MGP has given support to the BJP to form the government in the state along with the Goa Forward Party (GFP) and other independent legislators.
BJP leader Michael Lobo, who is the deputy speaker of the Goa Assembly, told PTI that the party emissaries would suggest to allies Goa Forward Party (GFP) and MGP that they should become part of the saffron party.
"Right now, our main focus is on increasing the strength of the BJP from 14 to 17 on the floor of the House," Lobo said.
Talking to reporters on Saturday morning, MGP president Deepak Dhavalikar said, "It is high time Parrikar hands over the charge to the senior most minister for smooth functioning of the government."
When asked about Parrikar’s replacement as chief minister, BJP President Amit Shah told reporters in Hyderabad, "We are praying for his health to improve and the party will take a decision at an appropriate time."
Dhavalikar said in the last eight months, the government has not been able to function smoothly.
He said Parrikar can remain the chief minister and hand over the charge to someone else in his absence.
When asked whether he wanted his elder brother and MGP leader Sudin Dhavalikar to be given the charge, he said, "I don’t know… let them tell who is the senior most. I am just saying that whoever is given charge should be the senior most."
Sudin Dhavalikar, who is the Public Works Department (PWD) Minister, is the senior most member in the Parrikar-led Cabinet.
The MGP chief also ruled out any possibility of the MGP’s merger with the BJP.
"There is no question of merger. We are not interested in the merger. It will never happen. We have built the party over several years and it is the hope for future of Goa’s politics. We have 12-13 per cent vote share in the state, so where is the question of merging the party," Dhavalikar added.
The MGP’s demand, however, met with resistance from other allies.
"What can I comment on MGP’s statement? Everything that MGP wants need not happen. In an alliance, decisions are taken collectively. It cannot be the demand of a single party," Goa Forward Party chief and state agriculture minister Vijai Sardesai said.
He said that Parrikar had formed the Cabinet Advisory Committee to govern in his absence earlier by consulting allies, adding that, even at the time, he had not handed over the charge to the "senior most minister".
"Why should charge be given now? Parrikar is running the government and there is no vacancy," Sardesai said.
Another minister and Independent legislator Govind Gawade also said that the question of handing over the charge to the senior most minister does not arise and claimed that there have been no discussions about a change in leadership in the state.
Taking a swipe at Dhavalikar, Gawade said, "What is important is his capability to handle the charge. The MGP is raking up this unwarranted discussion as they are masters in such acts. There is no issue of handing over charge to the senior most minister."
The opposition Congress, meanwhile, blamed the BJP and its allies for what it claimed was an administrative mess due to the prolonged absence of Parrikar.
Goa Pradesh Congress Committee Girish Chodankar added that the latest developments were an internal matter of the alliance.
"We don’t know whether the CM is stepping down or not. We are watching the developments closely. The BJP and its allies are responsible for the mess that is happening in Goa since last 16 months," Chodankar claimed.
Meanwhile, state BJP general secretary Sadanand Tanavade said, "All the decisions related to the government are a prerogative of the chief minister and the party has nothing to say about it.">