The Goa Legislative Assembly is back to its full strength of 40 MLAs, with four newly-elected legislators taking oath on Tuesday. The Goa Assembly now has BJP as the single largest party with 17 MLAs, even as the party has lost the Panaji seat, held for long by late chief minister Manohar Parrikar, to the Congress.
In 2017, after the Assembly elections, the BJP had won 13 seats while the Congress had 17. The grand old party has since seen three defections, and is now down to a strength of 15 members in the House.
On Tuesday, Acting Speaker Michael Lobo administered oath of office to the four MLAs — three from the BJP and one from the Congress. Subhash Shirodkar, Dayanand Sopte and Joshua D’Silva of the BJP and Atanasio Monserratte of the Congress got election in the bypolls, the results for which were announced on May 23.
While Shirodkar was elected from Shiroda, Sopte won from Mandrem. Both had won the 2017 polls on Congress ticket but defected to the BJP last year, necessitating the bypolls. Prior to them, Vishwajit Rane of the Congress had switched loyalty to the BJP after the 2017 poll results. He is facing a disqualification petition filed by Independent MLA Prasad Gaonkar.
Bypolls to Panaji and Mapusa seats were held due to the death of sitting MLAs Manohar Parrikar and Francis D’Souza, respectively. D’Souza was a former deputy chief minister of Goa. While Joshua D’Silva of the BJP won from Mapusa, the Panaji seat was wrested by Atanasio Monserratte of the Congress.
The swearing-in ceremony was held at the Assembly complex, in the presence of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant.
Meanwhile, there will be a special session of the Goa Legislative Assembly on June 4 to elect the new Speaker. The post has been lying vacant since Sawant was sworn in as the CM in March, after the then CM Manohar Parrikar.
Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo had been since officiating as the Speaker. He said on Tuesday he was not in the race for the new Speaker.
The ruling BJP now has 17 MLAs, while the Congress has 15. The Goa Forward Party (GFP), a BJP ally, has three MLAs while Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party (MGP), another coalition partner, has one. One Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator, three Independents form the rest of the four MLAs who together take the strength to 40.
MGP too had seen defection with its two MLAs Manohar Ajgaonkar and Deepak Pawaskar switching sides. A disqualification petition is pending against them too.
The BJP government enjoys the support of the three Independents too.
In 2017, the Congress had emerged as the single largest party with 17 seats, but the BJP was able to stitch up a coalition to form government. Manohar Parrikar, who was then the Union defence minister, was sent back to the state to take charge as the chief minister. Parrikar died of cancer in March this year.
(With agency inputs)