Goa Forward Party chief and agriculture minister Vijai Sardesai suggested on Thursday that the ailing chief minister, Manohar Parrikar, wanted to resign, but the BJP high command vetoed it.

“He wanted to give up the CM’s post altogether. He had even shown an inclination to give away his portfolios (to other ministers) when he was admitted to a hospital during Ganesh Chaturthi festival,” Sardesai said in Panaji.

“But then several things happened. BJP high command stepped in….it (to resign or not) is not in his (Parrikar’s) hands entirely,” Sardesai told reporters.

Parrikar, 62, has been undergoing treatment for a pancreatic ailment for several months now and arrived in the state on October 14 post hospitalisation at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.

Asked about independent MLA and Revenue Minister Rohan Khaunte’s remark that the administration has become sluggish in Parrikar’s absence, Sardesai said, “I have always been saying that CM’s ill-health has had some sort of impact, and it is showing.”

To a question on another alliance partner Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) filing a petition against two former Congress MLAs who joined the BJP, the minister said it was surprising.

MGP has moved the Goa Bench of Bombay High Court, seeking to disqualify Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte, former Congress MLAs who recently joined the BJP.

“It is a matter between two constituents of the alliance — BJP and MGP. So we are not concerned with it,” Sardesai said.

“As far as MGP is concerned, its decision to go to the court is surprising…I can believe it is a preemptive move, they (MGP) have not lost anything, Congress has lost two MLAs,” Sardesai said in a cryptic remark.

Speculation was rife earlier that MGP MLAs might join the BJP which does not have a majority on its own in Goa Assembly.

BJP spokespersons were not available for comment on Sardesai’s remarks.

Union Minister Shripad Naik had earlier said that a change in leadership in Goa was a “requirement” “today or tomorrow” considering the health of Parrikar.

While there has been periodic talk about a change in leadership in the state, the BJP has consistently ruled it out.

Goa BJP President Vinay Tendulkar had last month said that ailing Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar will not resign as the head of the BJP-led coalition government, ruling out “rumours” that the former Defence Minister was likely to step down from his post due to ill-health.

Parrikar’s absence from office due to health reasons has triggered a political upheaval in Goa, with ruling allies stepping up pressure on the BJP to shed some of the top portfolios currently held by the Chief Minister.

The Congress has also demanded that due to Parrikar’s ill-health, the state administration had come to a standstill and has demanded that Governor Mridula Sinha should dismiss the government.

Hundreds of people, including some Congress leaders, on November 20 marched to the private residence of ailing Manohar Parrikar, demanding his resignation, and a “full-time” chief minister in his place.

The people, who came together under the banner of ‘People’s March For Restoration of Governance’, marched for about 1 km, and gave an “ultimatum” of 48 hours to Manohar Parrikar to step down as the chief minister.

Apart from the Congress, other political parties including NCP and Shiv Sena also extended support to the protest march, which was initiated by social activists and NGOs.

The protesters demanded Parrikar step down as the chief minister as he has been unwell.

They said the governance in the state had suffered as Manohar Parrikar was ill and remained hospitalised for more than nine months.

The police stopped the protest march 100 metres from the chief minister’s private residence.

On behalf of the protesters, Aires Rodrigues, social activist and the leader of the protest march, publicly gave an “ultimatum” of 48 hours to Parrikar to step down.

“We need a full-time CM. For the last nine months, the state administration has collapsed. The CM is not meeting his own ministers and MLAs,” Aires Rodrigues said.

He said the people who marched to the chief minister’s residence had also come to check on his health condition.

Aires Rodrigues warned of launching a state-wide agitation in case Parrikar does not step down within 48 hours.

(With PTI inputs)