- Two Congress MLAs joined BJP, reducing dependence on partners
- BJP can now replace ailing Manohar Parrikar, a key demand of allies
- Goa minister Rane, seen as frontrunner, called by BJP to Delhi for talks
Hours after two Goa Congress lawmakers switched to the BJP on Tuesday, improving the wafer-thin majority of the ruling coalition in the state, there was a buzz around minister Vishwajit Pratap Singh Rane as a possible replacement for Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who is battling a pancreatic condition. So far, there is no official word on Mr Parrikar stepping down.
Mr Rane, first elected to the Goa Assembly in 2010, is the minister for health and women and child development in the state cabinet.
His father Pratap Singh Rane, a Congress lawmaker, is a four-time chief minister.
Mr Rane was called for discussions in Delhi by the BJP central leadership on Monday. BJP sources said Mr Rane, who represents Valpoi assembly seat in North Goa, is credited with bringing on board the two Congress lawmakers, Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte.
The Congress tally has been reduced from 16 to 14, leaving it evenly matched with the BJP. The loss of two members also weakens the Congress's efforts to raise numbers to form a coalition government.
The ruling BJP, with 14 lawmakers, has the support of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the Goa Forward Party - both with three lawmakers each, three independent lawmakers and one legislator from the Nationalist Congress Party.
Goa Congress leader A Chellakumar alleged that the two defectors were poached by Vishwajit Rane as part of a deal in which he would be rewarded with the top post.
"I got a message that Vishwajit Rane was the man who has convinced and taken them to Delhi and he has bargained with the BJP high command that if he got the two Congress MLAs, he should be made the Chief Minister," Mr Chellakumar claimed.
The Congress emerged as the single largest party after the 2017 assembly elections, winning 17 seats. However, within days, Vishwajit Rane resigned and crossed over to the BJP, which cobbled up a coalition and staked claim to power.