BJP MLA Pramod Sawant was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Goa just before 2 am Tuesday, capping a day of hectic parleys between the saffron party and its allies to put a new government in place in the state.
After multiple postponements of the oath ceremony on Monday, the day when his predecessor Manohar Parrikar was cremated with state honours, Sawant was sworn in by Goa governor Mridula Sinha at Raj Bhavan at 1.50 am.
Sinha administered the oath of office and secrecy to the 46-year-old legislator from Sankhalim in North Goa.
The Governor also administered oath to 11 other ministers, including those from BJP’s allies MGP and the GFP.
Interestingly, all the ministers who were part of erstwhile Manohar Parrikar-led Cabinet were sworn in by the Governor.
MGP’s two MLAs Sudin Dhavalikar and Manohar Ajgaonkar were sworn-in, while Goa Forward party MLAs Vijai Sardesai, Vinod Palekar and Jayesh Salgaonkar also took oath.
BJP MLAs Mauvin Godinho, Vishwajit Rane, Milind Naik and Nilesh Cabral also found a place in the Sawant-led Cabinet.
Independent MLAs Rohan Khaunte and Govind Gawade were also sworn in by Governor.
As per the power-sharing arrangement reached with allies, an MLA each from two small parties backing the BJP in the coastal state will be made deputy chief minister, party sources said.
They are Goa Forward Party chief Vijai Sardesai and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party MLA Sudin Dhavalikar.
Senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari, the party’s Goa in- charge, was present at the oath-taking ceremony.
The new government was sworn-in with the support of 20 MLAs, including 11 from the BJP and three each from GFP, MGP and Independents.
All the MLAs supporting the coalition were present at the swearing-in ceremony.
Before taking oath as the CM, Pramod Sawant resigned from the post of Speaker of Goa Legislative Assembly.
Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo would be officiating as Speaker till election for the post was held.
The swearing-in of the new Chief Minister, which was scheduled to be held at 11 pm on Monday at the Raj Bhavan was earlier called off.
Political sources said that the decision to cancel the 11 pm swearing-in ceremony was taken because the ongoing discussions which were being conducted by top BJP leaders, including Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, with allied parties vis-a-vis power-sharing and distribution of portfolios had prolonged.
Goa witnessed hectic political activity after Manohar Parrikar passed away on Sunday evening after suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer for over a year.
Gadkari, who began a series of meetings with BJP’s coalition partners since Sunday, finally managed to have a consensus over the leadership of Sawant.
Sawant will now have to prove his majority in the Assembly.
Sawant said his party BJP has given him a big responsibility. Talking to reporters, Sawant credited Parrikar for bringing him into politics.
“Parrikar is not amongst us now and the responsibility has been given collectively to me by my party, alliance partners and independent MLAs. This is a big responsibility. Manohar Parrikar was a visionary leader and he had carried out a great body of work for the state,” Sawant said.
Sawant said he planned to focus on “human and infrastructure development” explaining that Parrikar “did a lot of work for the youth, people and in the social sector through the schemes he conceived.”
“Whatever time is needed I will give for Goa. I and my associates will work on the principle of ‘Antyodaya,’ to reach out to the last person in society,” the 45-year-old said.
Pramod Sawant had a long association with the BJP since his days of active participation in its youth wing which made him a favourable option for the post. Sawant was the president of the Goa BJP youth wing as recently as seven years ago while also holding the charge as the national deputy secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM).
Parrikar was heading a coalition government comprising the BJP, three MLAs each of the Goa Forward Party (GFP), the MGP and three independents.
The Congress is currently the single largest party in the state with 14 MLAs. The BJP has 12 legislators in the 40-member Assembly, whose strength now is 36 after Parrikar’s death.