MGP to merge into Congress ?

| 28 July 1999 23:18 IST

The newly formed coalition between the ruling Congress party and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party may ultimately be converted into one entity if one goes by the hints thrown at by former union minister Ramakant Khalap, the MGP leader.

"To fight the emerging force of the BJP, all the like-minded and secular forces have to work together", says Khalap, who is presently leading the MGP’s legislative wing along with three others in the 40-member House.

He also does not deny the possibility of he contesting Lok Sabha elections on the Congress ticket, though neither he nor chief minister Luizinho Faleiro wants to commit anything on this count. "The decision would be taken at appropriate time", says Faleiro.

The Congress sources however confirm that the modalities worked out by AICC general secretary Madhavrao Scindia in the national capital with Khalap include at least one cabinet berth to the MGP, besides ticket to Khalap for the Lok Sabha polls, scheduled here for 4 September.

Faleiro however denies that it is an attempt to counter rebellion within the ruling party, which is otherwise enjoying absolute majority of 23 in the 40-member House, besides support from the sole independent. Two more were added to the ruling benches a fortnight ago by merging the whole legislative wing of the United Goans Democratic Party into the Congress.

As Scindia has hinted not to go beyond adding two more in the six-member cabinet, speculations are rife that the other berth would go to one of the former UGDP man. As this would provoke at least nine Congress aspirants, Faleiro has decided not to go for expansion until budget is passed by next week.

The political game of simple arithmetic by Faleiro however reduces the opposition to mere 12, including 10 legislators belonging to the BJP, besides the Goa Rajiv Congress duo led by former chief minister Dr Wilfred de Souza, a former Congressman.

Faleiro describes it as a " progressive, matured and well-thought decision" by the MGP while Khalap claims it would further strengthen the government in the background of instability haunting the state since 1990. But their actual participation in the governance would materialise only after the ongoing monsoon session ends, it appears.

Defections have become order of the day in the tourist state, which has witnessed 11 chief ministers and two brief spells of President’s rule in last nine years. But there is no guarantee that the new coalition experiment would end the series as at least eight to nine disgruntled elements within the Congress have been desperately trying to dislodge the government.

Though Khalap claims that his party organisation was taken into confidence, the leaders speak otherwise. "We will fight till the end to maintain our party’s independent identity", shot back Prof Surendra Sirsat, the MGP chief, who has been totally sidelined while hatching the coalition.

Confusion prevails also among the Congress legislators, who now speak openly (but in private) of toppling the one-month old government if they are not accommodated in the cabinet. Even the Goa PCC members are angry since they were not consulted. Incidentally, Faleiro also heads the PCC here.

Following victory of Eduardo Faleiro as the Rajya Sabha MP on Monday, the next challenge before the ruling party is to win both the Lok Sabha seats on 4 September. "The unholy alliance of the Congress and the MGP would ultimately help us to emerge victorious in the forthcoming polls", claims BJP’s local president Dr Suresh Amonkar confidently.

Manohar Parrikar, the state opposition leader, goes a step ahead and claims that the fragmentation within the Congress would also benefit the BJP as he expects the disgruntled legislators, who have been left out of the cabinet, to support his party candidates to win.

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