India: Supreme Court to hear Congress petition against BJP govt formation in Goa

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley addresses a delegation on January 11, 2017. (File photo) Photograph:( Reuters )

New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 13, 2017, 11.22 AM (IST)

The Congress has approached the Supreme Court to stop Manohar Parrikar from being the next chief minister of India's western Goa state.

The party, which emerged as the single largest party in the assembly elections in the state, claimed they had the first right to form the government having won more legislative seats than the BJP.

The top court will hear the petition at 11 am today (March 14).
 

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The BJP yesterday (March 13) said it had the support of 21 MLAs, the exact number needed to prove majority in the 40-member House.

The party had managed to win 13 of the 40 legislative seats, falling eight seats from securing a majority and winning four seats less than the Congress's 17.

But the BJP forged alliances with Goa Forward Party (GFP) and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) -- both won three seats each -- and the support of two independent candidates to outmanouvre Congress to reach the majority number.

Congress, which was the single-largest party with 17 seats but short of staking their claim to form the government, has cried hoarse about BJP's move, accusing them of "murdering" democracy.

The Congress, which until yesterday had failed to muster the numbers, today (March 13) said it has the requisite support of the legislators.

The party on Monday urged Goa Governor Mridula Sinha to invite the Congress to form the next government by virtue of being the single largest party.

In a memorandum submitted to the Governor on Monday night, the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) claimed to have the requisite support and that they can prove the same on the floor of the House.

"Any invitation to the BJP to form the government at this stage without first giving an opportunity to the single largest party (Congress) would mitigate against the essential democratic rights of the people of the state who have chosen the Congress as the single largest party in the state," the memorandum said.

"Despite losing the mandate of the people, our political opponents (BJP) have tried to misrepresent to your good-self that they enjoy the majority support of legislators. This is not only opportunism at its lowest but is also not constitutionally permissible," Goa CLP Leader Chandrakant Kavlekar stated in the memorandum.

The development comes a day ahead of swearing-in of BJP leader Manohar Parrikar as Chief Minister. 

Parrikar, who was India's defence minister met the Governor on Sunday and staked his claim to form the government. He was appointed chief minister by the Governor the same day.

He has rushed to Goa for his swearing-in ceremony.

India's finance minister has been given the additional portfolio of defence ministry as the hitherto incumbent has been asked by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP to helm Goa.

A statement from the Rashtrapati Bhavan -- the official of the President of India -- confirmed the development.

"The President of India, as advised by the Prime Minister, has accepted the resignation of Shri (Mr) Manohar Parrikar, from the Council of Ministers, with immediate effect, under clause (2) of Article 75 of the Constitution. Further, as advised by the Prime Minister, the President has directed that Shri Arun Jaitely, Cabinet Minister, shall be assigned the charge of the Ministry of Defence, in addition to his existing portfolios,” the press release stated.

“I have tendered my resignation as defence minister and sent it to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)” Parrikar told PTI.The swearing-in ceremony will take place tomorrow evening (March 14) as the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, managed to cobble up an alliance with regional outfits to stake their claim.

For Arun Jaitley, this is the second time he has taken over the defence ministry. He was the defence minister from May 26 to November 9, shortly after Modi swept to power in 2014.

Goa Governor Mridul Sinha, meanwhile, has given Parrikar 15 days' time to confirm coalition support.

"Governor Mridula Sinha has appointed Manohar Parrikar, the Leader of the Goa BJP legislature party, as the chief minister of Goa," Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Secretary to Governor stated in a press note issued on Sunday night.

(WION with inputs from PTI)