Tuesday, Oct 04, 2022
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Congress Legacy Looms Over Goa's BJP-led Coalition Cabinet

Forever at the receiving end of defections over the last two decades, the Congress in the last five years lost 60 per cent of its MLAs (24) to defection, most of them to the BJP. The BJP-led coalition cabinet led by Sawant comprises 12 ministers. 

Congress MLAs Michael Lobo and Sankalp Amonkar.
Congress MLAs Michael Lobo and Sankalp Amonkar.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s cabinet is perhaps the most appropriate barometer to gauge the quantum of the internal crisis faced by the Congress party in Goa. 

Forever at the receiving end of defections over the last two decades, the Congress in the last five years lost 60 per cent of its MLAs (24) to defection, most of them to the BJP. The BJP-led coalition cabinet led by Sawant comprises 12 ministers. 

But barring Sawant himself, nearly all his cabinet colleagues have been part or linked to the Congress party in the past. The only exception is Power Minister Sudin Dhavalikar, who has stuck to the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party since the 1990s. 

Pramod Sawant: Chief Minister Pramod Sawant resigned as a government ayurvedic practitioner to join the BJP and contest a bypoll from the Pale assembly constituency in 2008. He lost that election but won subsequent polls from the since delimited assembly constituency, which is now referred to as Sanquelim. 

Vishwajit Rane: Whenever Pramod Sawant takes a political pause and looks around, one could expect Goa’s ambitious Town and Country Planning Minister to look over the Chief Minister’s shoulder. The rivalry between Sawant and Rane, both Maratha leaders, goes back to the days when Rane was a Congress legislator. Rane, son of veteran Congress leader and ex-chief minister Pratapsingh, won his first assembly election in 2007 as an independent candidate supported by the Congress from the Valpoi assembly constituency. He resigned in 2010 and contested on a Congress ticket to win the seat yet again. Rane won the assembly seat in 2012 and 2017 too. He switched to the Bharatiya Janata Party after resigning as an MLA days after the 2017 assembly poll results were declared. Since then, Rane has been jockeying for the top job in the BJP government. 

Ravi Naik: Ravi Naik’s political initiation was in the early 1970s in MaharashtrawadiGomantak Party, a regional political party. He joined Congress in 1991. In the 1990s he was appointed chief minister on two occasions. In 2000, Naik who was the leader of the opposition in the state assembly, quit the Congress to join the BJP and served as a Public Works Department Minister. He quit the BJP again in 2002 and won the Ponda assembly constituency seat in 2007. Naik stayed put with Congress till 2021 when he joined the BJP. He is currently the state Agriculture Minister. 

Subhash Shirodkar: Shirodkar was first elected to the state assembly on a Congress ticket in 1984. Shirodkar also served as the state Congress president for four years between 2008-2012. He joined the BJP after 2018, just a year after he won the Shiroda assembly seat a year back on a Congress ticket. He is currently the state Water Resources Minister. 

Mauvin Godinho: Godinho came up through the Youth Congress ranks in Goa and was elected to the state assembly for the first time in 1989. After briefly quitting the Congress as part of a breakaway group, Godinhore-joined the Congress and won the 1994 assembly polls. He has been in Congress since, before quitting the party to join the BJP in 2016. Godinho holds the Transport portfolio. 

Rohan Khaunte: A relatively new face in state politics, Khaunte won two successive elections as an independent candidate in 2012 and 2017. In 2017, his candidature was supported by Congress, but after the results were announced, Khauntejoined a BJP-led alliance government. Two years later he was sacked from the cabinet, after the death of then Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, following which Khaunte was one of the key opposition critics of Pramod Sawant’s administration. He was tipped to join the Congress, before the 2022 polls, but joined the BJP instead. He is currently the Tourism Minister in Sawant’s cabinet.

Govind Gaude: Gaude, an emerging tribal leader, contested his first assembly elections in 2007 on a Congress ticket from the Marcaim assembly constituency. As an independent candidate, Gaudelost the 2012 assembly polls from the Priol assembly constituency, but eventually won the 2017 polls from the Priol assembly constituency as an independent. Gaudelater joined the BJP ahead of the 2022 assembly polls. He is the state Art and Culture minister. 

Nilesh Cabral: Cabral joined the BJP ahead of the 2012 assembly polls from the Curchorem assembly seat. Prior to the polls, Cabral was associated with the Congress MLA from the same assembly constituency ShyamSatardekar. Cabral has been a BJP MLA since. 

Atanasio Monserrate: In more ways than one, Monserrate has emerged as a symbolic equivalent of excessive fluidity in Goa’s contemporary politics. Monseratte was first elected as a legislator on a United Goans Democratic Party ticket in 2002 from the Taleigao assembly constituency. He quickly defected to the BJP and was appointed Minister in a Manohar Parrikar-led cabinet. In 2005, after he was sacked as a minister, Monserrate joined the Congress and stayed put till 2015 when he was sacked on account of “anti-party” activities. He contested the 2017 assembly bypoll in Panaji, which he lost, following which Monserrate briefly joined the Goa Forward Party. Ahead of the 2019 Panaji bypoll, Monserrate joined the Congress and won the Panaji seat, only to quit the party and join the ruling BJP in a matter of months. Monserrate is a Revenue Minister in the Sawant cabinet. 

Subhash Phaldesai: Phaldesai is the state Archives and Archaeology Minister and BJP MLA from the Sanguem assembly constituency. Phaldesai was once a contender for the Congress ticket in an assembly poll in the early 2000s, according to former state Congress president Girish Chodankar. 

Nilkanth Halarnkar: Fisheries Minister in the Pramod Sawant cabinet, Halarnkarcontested the 2007 state assembly elections on a Congress ticket. After losing one election, he was elected as an MLA on a Congress ticket again in 2017, before he joined a breakaway group of 10 MLAs which split the party and merged into the BJP. Halarnkar won the 2022 state polls from the Thivim assembly constituency 2022 on a BJP ticket. 

Sudin Dhavalikar: Dhavalkar is the only non-BJP Minister in the cabinet. Dhavalikar and the MaharashtrawadiGomantak Party which he represents had contested the 2022 assembly polls in alliance with the Trinamool Congress on an anti-BJP plank. The MGP entered into a post-poll alliance with the BJP soon after the results were announced and the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the 40-member state assembly. 
 

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