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Manohar Parrikar to continue as Goa CM despite illness as BJP can’t find replacement

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BJP president Amit Shah announced Manohar Parrikar will continue as Goa CM and a cabinet reshuffle was likely soon.

New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah has announced that Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, undergoing treatment for cancer, will continue in the post.

The BJP has, through the announcement, attempted to avert the immediate and inevitable crisis that would have been precipitated by the absence of a suitable successor.

“After discussions with the Goa BJP core team, it has been decided that chief minister Manohar Parrikar will continue to lead the Goa government,” Shah tweeted Sunday evening.

“Changes to the council of ministers and portfolios in the state would be made soon,” he added.

With Parrikar under treatment at AIIMS in the national capital, the BJP had been toying with the succession question, but the absence of a clear and easily acceptable alternative has led the party brass to stick to the former defence minister, party sources said.

Moreover, the party does not want to seem insensitive by dropping a senior leader like Parrikar while he is in hospital. It was reported that before coming to AIIMS, Parrikar had spoken to Shah on the phone and expressed his inability to carry on working normally.

Protecting a fragile coalition

The BJP is in a tricky situation in the state and, according to the sources, the leadership does not want to risk jeopardising its hold there.

Of the 40 assembly seats in the state, the BJP has 14 while the Congress has 16. The BJP-led coalition, which comprises the Goa Forward Party (GFP), the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and three independents, together has 23 MLAs.

With the BJP’s leadership uncertainty, the Congress had already started flexing its muscles, prompting the party’s central brass and state unit to take this call.

Also read: With Manohar Parrikar indisposed, BJP concerned about ‘go Goa gone’

Sources had earlier told ThePrint the crisis had arisen “since Parrikar groomed no second rung”. Add to this the fact that all potential names carry some question marks, and the prospect of naming a successor became all the more troublesome for the BJP.

To begin with, seven of its 14 MLAs are Catholics. With the nature of its majoritarian politics, the BJP is reportedly reluctant to opt for any of them. Also, senior state ministers like Francis D’souza and Pandurang Madkaikar are also unwell.

For now, none of its prospective options ticks all the boxes. The minister of state (independent charge) for AYUSH, Shripad Naik, is popular among the state cadre. But he does not possess great skills as an administrator, and the party leadership is uncertain that he will be able to handle a fragile coalition.

Also, Naik is not an MLA and “a bypoll is undesirable at this stage”, sources in the party’s Goa unit said.

The best bet for the BJP seems to be state cabinet minister Vishwajit Pratap Rane, who is popular, has support in the local unit, is said to be close to Shah, and has both money and muscle power. However, his Congress origin acts as a hurdle.

Rane, son of former CM and veteran Congress leader Pratapsingh Raoji Rane, quit the Congress to join the BJP in April 2017.

Also read: Goa politicians only agree on one thing: Don’t dissolve Assembly

Vijai Sardesai of the GFP and Sudin Dhavalikar of the MGP are also asserting their weight, but both seem like unlikely choices for the BJP, which will not want a merger with the outfits.

Sardesai is a lightweight and, again, has a Congress background. Dhavalikar does fit into the BJP’s Hindutva politics, but, at the end of the day, he is not a party member either.

Given its limited and rather uneasy options, and the fact that it is worried about losing the state, the BJP’s central brass is taking it slow for now, sources said, choosing the more comfortable and cushioned option of avoiding a leadership change.

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