Senior BJP leader and Union minister Nitin Gadkari has once again emerged as the party's chief trouble-shooter in Goa, where he moved quickly to select a new chief minister after the death of Manohar Parrikar and kept allies on his side to avoid a break-up in coalition.
Gadkari played a similar role in March 2017 when he sewed up a coalition led by the BJP, which had won 13 seats as against 17 by the Congress, by deftly bringing together regional outfits – which fought polls on an anti-BJP platform – and also three Independents.
The BJP stalwart had then flown to Goa at midnight to spearhead the coalition talks, which saw the BJP retaining power in the politically volatile state.
The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the Goa Forward Party (GFP), with three MLAs each, had then agreed to be part of the BJP-led coalition only if Parrikar, then defence minister, was made the chief minister.
Two years later, after the death of Parrikar Sunday, Gadkari, the BJP's Goa in-charge, once again found himself at the centre of coalition and consensus-building exercise, which culminated in party legislator Pramod Sawant taking over as the new chief minister with support from allies.
A star hotel near Panaji became a beehive of activity as Gadkari, who air dashed here, held a series of meetings through the Monday night with the MLAs of the BJP, MGP, GFP and also three Independents to select Parrikar's successor.
“The difference between 2017 and 2019 is the absence of Parrikar. He was the rallying point (in 2017) for everyone despite the fact that MGP and GFP do not share cordial relation,” a senior BJP member said.
"The exercise that was undertaken this time, in the same hotel which was used during 2017 talks, was tedious considering the fact that the Parrikar-led coalition was faction-ridden.
"It was difficult to troubleshoot such a situation, if not for a person like Gadkari," he said, acknowledging the stellar role played by the 61-year-old BJP veteran in keeping the coalition intact in Goa post Parrikar's death.
The GFP, which cooperated with the BJP during both the episodes, said Parrikar may not be around, but the development process started by him must be taken forward and this made the Vijai Sardesai-led party stick with the saffron outfit.
"Vijai (Sardesai) and Parrikar had come together in 2017 for good governance. We gave a pro-people government but tragedy struck and we lost him (Parrikar)," GFP Vice-President Durgadas Kamat said.
“Now, when the issue of decision-making came in 2019 we decided to join hands to carry on the development work that started (under Parrikar).
"We are not in a mood to createinstability in government," he said, explaining his party's decision to continue in the BJP-led ruling coalition.
"Parrikar might not be there but his spirit is there in every work that is being taken up.
"That is why even this time Gadkari and our leader Vijai Sardesai took quick decisions and ensured a new leader was selected within a few hours," he added.
(Published in arrangement with PTI)
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