In a late but politically significant development, two out of the three Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party legislators early on Wednesday, split from the regional party and merged their two-member legislative unit into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo said.
"MGP MLAs Manohar Ajgaonkar and Deepak Pauskar have merged with the BJP. They first split from the MGP and formed MGP-II and then merged with the BJP," the Deputy Speaker told IANS.
The letter requesting merger into the BJP was handed over to Lobo at 1:45 am on Wednesday.
MGP MLA Deepak Pauskar after merger of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Legislative Party with BJP: We have happily joined BJP. Oath-taking ceremony will take place at 12 PM (today) in the presence of Goa Governor. We will accept whatever ministry will be given to us by Goa CM. pic.twitter.com/INSKKIkQCa— ANI (@ANI) March 26, 2019
MGP MLA Deepak Pauskar after merger of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Legislative Party with BJP: Sudin Dhavalikar (Goa Deputy CM & MGP MLA) should be dropped now. He will be dropped during working hours today. #Goa https://t.co/wBjjprdudD— ANI (@ANI) March 26, 2019
The development comes on the heels of a growing discomfort between the BJP and the MGP, which surfaced openly after the latter was given only two ministerial berths during last week's government formation, instead of three as demanded by party leader and Deputy Chief Minister Sudin Dhavalikar.
Dhavalikar and Ajgaonkar were sworn in as PWD Minister and Tourism Minister respectively at a swearing in ceremony at Raj Bhavan in the pre-dawn hours of March 19.
The repeated insistence of Dipak Dhavalikar, MGP president and Sudin's brother, to contest the upcoming bypoll from the Shiroda assembly constituency against the BJP, had also led to tension between the two political units, leading to Wednesday's development.
"We, Manohar Ajgaonkar and Deepak Pauskar have agreed to merge with the BJP. In view of sub-clause (2) of clause 4 of the 10th Schedule, and in view of the fact that we constitute 2/3rds of the members of the legislative party, such merger shall be deemed to have taken place," a letter submitted by Ajgaonkar to the Deputy Speaker said.
BJP state president Vinay Tendulkar was present at the state legislative assembly complex, when the duo submitted the letter to Lobo and merged into the BJP in presence of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant.
The merger of the two-member legislative unit into the BJP, brings the saffron party on par with the Congress with 14 seats each.
Speaking to reporters at the state legislative assembly complex Manohar Ajgaonkar said, that both he and Deepak Pauskar were kept away from the decision-making process in the MGP, which was the reason why the duo had decided to quit the regional party.
Ajgaonkar also said, that this week's sacking of a bahujan samaj (OBC) leader from the MGP, which was engineered by the Dhavalikar brothers -- both of whom are Brahmin -- had put his status in the party in question.
"What is happening in MGP, the whole of Goa knows. They have harassed the bahujan samaj. What will happen to a dalit like me? This is the question. After seeing this, I quit the local party and joined the national party," Ajgaonkar said.
Pauskar said, that he had been assured a berth in the ministry by the Chief Minister and that he would be happy with "any ministry of the Chief Minister's choosing". His swearing-in ceremony was expected to be held later on Wednesday, he also said.
When asked if Sudin Dhavalikar would be dropped from the cabinet to make way for Pauskar on Wednesday, Sawant cryptically said: "The decision to drop (a minister) will be taken and after that there will be a swearing in".
Meanwhile in a statement issued here, the state Congress said that the late night drama in Goa should send a signal to NDA parters, that BJP does not care about allies.
"BJP has proved it is a threat to all its allies. This is a clear indication to all NDA partners all over the country just before Lok Sabha elections, that any partnershup with BJP will be detrimental to the existence of their own party," Goa Congress chief spokesperson Sunil Kawthankar said.
On paper, the BJP currently has the support of three MLAs from the Goa Forward party, three Independent legislators and one MGP MLA in form of Sudin Dhavalikar, which takes the tally of the treasury benches to 20 in the 36-member state legislative assembly.
Sudin Dhavalikar could not be contacted for comment.