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Amid search for Parrikar's successor, Congress stakes claim to form government

Panaji, Sep 17 (IANS) Even as the ruling BJP-led coalition alliance looks for a new leader to replace ailing Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, Congress MLAs on Monday staked claim to form a government in Goa.

Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar visited Raj Bhavan and submitted a letter to Governor Mridula Sinha's office signed by all 16 Congress MLAs, demanding that she should not dissolve the Assembly and pave way for a fresh election.

This follows the political turmoil following Parrikar's airlift to a Delhi hospital last week. The Congress urged the Governor to instead invite the Congress, the single largest party, to form a government.

"We have requested the Governor that the government should not be dissolved and put the state on the path of elections. We have also asked her not to impose President's Rule or keep the House in suspended animation. People have elected us for five years... Imposing an election after a mere 18 months is not good for anybody," Kavlekar said.

In a formal demand to Sinha, Kavlekar has said: "That any recommendation for dissolution of the Goa Assembly ought not to be accepted... That the Congress being the single largest party, ought to be invited to form the government."

Kavlekar said he feared that a false letter or statement may be submitted to the Governor claiming the Congress recommended dissolution of the state Assembly.

"We also apprehended that false letters or statements may be placed attributed to Leaders of the INC (Indian National Congress), claiming there is a desire on the part of the INC to accept recommendation for dissolution of the Goa legislative assembly. This is not true and should not be accepted without adverting to a floor test," the letter said.

Sinha is currently not in the state and is expected to return to Goa on Tuesday.

Kavlekar's staking the claim comes at a time when BJP central observers are in the state meeting leaders of their own party and allies to finalise an alternative for Parrikar who has been fighting advanced pancreatic cancer for several months.

He has been shifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi.

State Congress President Girish Chodankar in a letter to the Governor last week also warned her against dissolving the House, seeking an opportunity for the Congress to form a government.

The Congress is the single largest party in the 40-member Goa Assembly with 16 MLAs, while the BJP, with 14 MLAs, is supported by three members each of Goa Forward and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, a Nationalist Congress Party legislator and three independent MLAs.

What queers the pitch in the number game, however, is the health conditions of three BJP MLAs. While Parrikar is severely afflicted by cancer, Urban Development Minister Francis D'Souza is currently taking treatment for cancer in New York and Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar, who suffered from a brainstroke some months back, is bed-ridden at his private residence near Panaji.

--IANS

maya/mr


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