Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Pramod Sawant was sworn in as the chief minister of Goa past midnight on Monday in a move that capped frenzied political developments in the state following Manohar Parrikar’s cremation, which witnessed thousands turning out to pay their last respects to one of the tallest leaders of the party from the region.
Two deputy chief ministers – one each from alliance partners Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Goa Forward Party (GFP) – were also picked in the crucial political transition that was necessitated by the death of 63-year-old Parrikar, who was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in February last year.
Sawant’s swearing-in ceremony was initially scheduled to be held at 11pm on Monday but it was pushed back, as the BJP deliberated with allies late into the night to secure his position as the consensus candidate for the chief minister’s post. The ceremony was finally held at 1.50 am. The 45-year-old had been elected the legislature party leader in the state by the BJP earlier in the day.
“The party has trusted me with a big responsibility. Whatever I am today is because of Manohar Parrikar,” Sawant said as he headed to the Raj Bhawan to take oath of office after staking claim to the government in a letter to governor Mridula Sinha.
Parrikar died on Sunday evening, prompting the Congress to stake its claim to the government with 14 party MLAs. After Parrikar’s death, the number of BJP MLAs in the assembly stood at 12, with a current House strength of 36. The BJP needed the support of at least seven other legislators to remain in power. The BJP formed the government in the state in 2017 with the support of the MGP and GFP – both with three MLAs each – and three independent legislators.
WATCH : Remembering Manohar Parrikar and the void he leaves behind in Goa and India
Political uncertainty arose in Goa during the day after a decision by the BJP top brass to elevate Sawant, the Speaker in the state assembly, was not fully accepted by the MGP and GFP initially, a BJP leader said on condition of anonymity.
All MLAs of the Congress, which is the single largest party in Goa, also met the governor in the coastal state. The strength of the assembly came down to 36 after the death of BJP MLA Francis D’Souza, and Parrikar on Sunday, and resignations of two Congress MLAs last year.
Thousands of supporters and BJP workers joined the funeral procession of Parrikar from the Kala Academy Arts and Cultural Centre, where the remains had been kept throughout the day for the public to pay last respects, to the nearby Miramar beach. The former defence minister’s mortal remains, wrapped in the national tri-colour, were placed on a pyre amid a 21 gun salute at the beach and his elder son Utpal Parrikar consigned it to flames. The 63-year-old leader is survived by two sons, Utpal and Abhijat. His wife died in 2001 after being diagnosed with cancer.
Top BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Nitin Gadkari, Smriti Irani, Suresh Prabhu and Ramdas Athawale paid tributes to Parrikar before he was cremated.
After attending the funeral, Shah led talks to finalise the contours of the leadership in the new government. The formula he worked was to allot deputy chief minister positions to the two key alliance partners – Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Goa Forward Party.
“Like the Parrikar government, the new BJP government will serve the people of Goa,” Shah said.
Gadkari, who was in Goa since late on Sunday night, said earlier that his party had finalised its CM candidate and was in talks with allies and independent legislators to cap the leadership transition.
An ayurveda doctor by training, Sawant was a leader of the BJP’s youth wing and retained his seat from the Sanquelim assembly constituency in 2017. He first entered the assembly in 2012. He came into prominence in the state when he led a protest in 2011 as the president of the Goa wing of BJP’s youth wing against Digambar Kamat-led Congress government over alleged irregularities in the mining sector.
Manohar Parrikar, who was then the leader of opposition in Goa assembly, spotted him and mentored him. According to a BJP leader, Sawant had the backing of Parrikar, who first played an important role in giving him a ticket for Goa assembly polls in 2012. He won from Sanquelim in 2012 and 2017.
(With inputs from agencies)
Mar 19, 2019 00:12 IST
Goa gets Pramod Sawant as Chief Minister past midnight – Hindustan Times