PANAJI: At 1.48 am, a minute after the national anthem was played at the Raj Bhavan, Dr. Pramod Sawant took oath as chief minister of Goa. The 45-year-old MLA from Sanquelimconstituency took charge of the office, hours after the final rites of his predecessor, Manohar Parrikar, were conducted with full state honours.
A two-time MLA who started as a karyakarta, Sawant steadily rose in rank and profile. While he has no political lineage, he is considered to have the backing of the RSS. His closeness to RSS was cited as one of the reasons why the allies -Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Goa Forward Party (GFP) – and the three independents refused to extend support during the initial negotiations, sources say.
Sawant is an Ayurvedic medical practitioner. His wife Sulakshana Sawant is the president of Goa Mahila Morcha.
The formal bugle of the BJP staking claim was sounded around midnight with Union minister for Road Transport & Highways, Nitin Gadkari arriving at the Raj Bhavan, followed by the entourage of the to-be-sworn in leaders.“We have the letter of support to form the government and we are submitting the same to the Governor,” Gadkari said while leaving Hotel Cidade De Goa where he had been camping since Sunday. The hotel is hardly a few kilometres from Raj Bhavan.
Minutes after the swearing-in, Sawant told reporters that he will try his best to meet expectations. “I don’t know if I will be able to fill in the shoes of Manohar Parrikar, he was a very tall leader …It is a very big responsibility that the party has given me. I will try my best to fulfill it. I am what I am today because of him,” Sawant told reporters
Along with Sawant, 11 others were sworn in by Governor Mridula Sinha as cabinet ministers. This included MGP’s Sudin Dhavalikar and GFP’s Vijai Sardesai. Both, sources say, will be deputy chief ministers.
Earlier in the day, there were reports of two of the MGPs MLAs defecting to the BJP, but BJP leaders clarified after the ceremony that MGP was an ally and that no leaders had defected.
“They are our ally and they haven’t defected and joined BJP,” BJP South Goa MP, Narendra Sawaikar told ET.
The swearing was preceded by much drama with the allies holding talks first with Gadkari and later with BJP President Amit Shah who took over the negotiation minutes after former CM Manohar Parrikar’s final rites were performed at Miramar beach.
On Sunday night, the action which was centred at Sardesai’s residence, quickly moved to hotel Cidade de Goa in Dona Paula where Gadkari, and later Shah, held talks with the allies.
In the afternoon, Congress leader Chandrakant Kavlekar visited Raj Bhavan to stake claim to form the government, asserting that they were the single largest party. He told reporters later that he was turned away.
Initially, the BJP at 12 seats, were 8 shy of forming the government. While the GFP extended its support by noon with Sardesai being offered the Deputy Chief Minister berth, it was the MGP that kept the BJP guessing.
“Nine MLAs ( three each from Goa Forward, MGP and Independents) were in a huddle since Sunday night and were conducting negotiations at Sardesai’s residence . All of them met Nitin Gadkari and returned around 5:30 am on Monday. Sawant’s name was put forward. However they rejected Sawant’s candidature citing his closeness to RSS,” said a source privy to the development told LutyensPost.
Then, later in the day, MGP passed a resolution demanding three cabinet berths and three corporations . Within hours there were reports of 2 MLAs – Manohar Azgaonkar and Deepak Pauskar, defecting to BJP – leaving Dhavalikar out in the cold.
Dhavalikar met Gadkari over dinner and the former was promised the Deputy CM post, with a cabinet berth for Azgaonkar. Azgaonkar was also sworn in post 2am.
The others who were sworn in included:Rohan Khaunte (independent ) Govind Gawde ( independent ),Vinod Palyeinkar ( GFP), Jayesh Salgaonkar (GFP), Maubin Goudinho ( BJP), Vishwajeet Rane (BJP, Milind Naik (BJP), Nilesh Cabral ( BJP).