The then state in-charge drew flak after the BJP swooped in and formed the govt, but has blamed the ruling party for making MLAs ‘untraceable’ soon after poll results.

New Delhi: The Congress had rustled up the requisite number of MLAs to form the government in Goa last year, but some of them became untraceable after union minister Nitin Gadkari landed in Panaji with “tons and tons of money”, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has said.

Singh was AICC general secretary in-charge of Goa when the Congress emerged as the single largest party in the assembly elections in March 2017, but it was the BJP that managed to form the government. Singh received flak from his party colleagues for not acting in time to counter the BJP’s moves.

The Goa assembly election results and subsequent government formation by the BJP are back under the scanner after Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala chose to ignore the claims of post-poll allies Congress and JD(S) and invited the BJP, the single largest party, to form the government. The BJP is currently eight MLAs short of a majority in Karnataka, with no clear path to how it will get the requisite support.

In Goa, the Congress had secured 17 seats against the BJP’s 13 in the 40-member assembly. But governor Mridula Sinha invited Manohar Parrikar to form a BJP-led coalition government after he submitted letters of support from 21 MLAs, including three each from the Goa Forward Party and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, and two independent MLAs.

Speaking to Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief of ThePrint, at an Off the Cuff event in the capital, Singh said the Congress’ strength had been reduced to five MLAs when Goa went to the polls in February 2017.

“So, there wasn’t any party left as such. But we did well. From five, we came to 17. We supported one independent MLA, so we were 18. Now, there were five ex-chief ministers who were elected. So, we had to choose a leader before we went to the governor. And on the night of the result, three independent MLAs said ‘we are with you’,” Singh recounted.

He explained that Vijay Sardesai, the Goa Forward leader who was the former state youth Congress president, had agreed to support a Congress-led government “on the night of the election results”. His only condition was that certain individuals should not become the chief minister, which was fine with the Congress.

“Suddenly, the next morning, we found he wasn’t available on the phone. Then, we found that Mr Nitin Gadkari had landed with tons and tons of money and one Bhushan Singh, MP from UP (Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the MP from Kaiserganj), who is also the president of the Wrestling Federation of India also arrived. Sardesai is the state president (of the wrestling federation) from Goa. At 4 in the morning, the deal was struck… I don’t know what. We found that we were suddenly left with only 17 people.

“The same thing happened in Manipur and Nagaland. No one blamed anyone. I have been the target,” said Singh, who returned to New Delhi last month after a six-month-long parikrama yatra (circumambulation) of the river Narmada in Madhya Pradesh.

“There is a Sarkaria Commission recommendation that in a fractured mandate, the single largest party has to be invited. And this happened in Parliament election also in 1989, and later in 1996. Therefore, it (Goa governor’s decision) was a gross violation. (There are) judicial pronouncements also to this effect… in a fractured mandate, the single largest party has to be given the chance because it has the largest mandate, which was denied in Goa, Manipur and Nagaland. So why blame Digvijaya Singh?” he said.

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