BELAGAVI: The political developments in Goa have picked up pace after the exit polls indicated a possible hung assembly.
Even as both the BJP and Congress are geared up to poach each other's legislators to achieve the magic number of 21 to form the government, it remains to be seen whether the BJP will resort to another round of 'Operation Lotus' which it successfully carried out to form its government in Karnataka and Goa after the previous assembly elections in the respective states.
In the backdrop of exit polls giving both the BJP and Congress close to 15 to 17 seats in the 40-member Goa assembly, the political analysts in Goa feel the role of regional parties like MGP, AAP, Goa Forward, TMC besides Independents is crucial in the formation of the new government.
While the Congress leadership is confident that none of its MLAs would switch sides in the event of a fractured outcome, sources said the strong links of Panaji MLA (BJP) Atanasio Monsarrate (Babush) with the Congress leaders in Goa may come in handy for the BJP to poach at least a few legislators from the grand old party. The same Monserrate had spearheaded `Operation Lotus' after the last assembly elections in Goa herding 10 Congress MLAs into BJP to help the latter form a government.
Noted Congress MLA from Calangute, Michael Lobo said, "Nobody will quit the Congress party. Let the BJP try any tactics also by using the ED and other agencies. We are all united and will not leave the party under any circumstances." However, Lobo said, the leaders from other parties are in touch with the Congress and that none from MGP or the Independents also would join the BJP as the latter had already backstabbed them.
He said the Congress would form the government in Goa at 5 pm on March 10 and the BJP would be in the opposition.
With the prediction of a hung assembly, the BJP's central leadership is keen to have a post-poll alliance with MGP besides poaching as many Independent candidates as possible.
According to sources, the BJP Central leadership is trying for a possible post-poll alliance with Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which is likely to win two to three seats.
"Union Minister for Highways Nitin Gadkari's good rapport with MGP may come in handy as the BJP is planning to take his help to get MGP's support if the party falls short of a majority. With at least three to four Independents set to win from different seats, most of them and MGP may rally behind BJP as the party is in power at the Centre. The Congress may also win at least 15 seats but it may not be able to get the support of MGP or Independents," says political analyst Suraj Nandrekar from Goa.
Senior journalist Kishor Naik Gaonkar said the Congress party may be able to form a government with the help of Goa Forward, TMC, and AAP only if it manages to get very close to the majority mark of 21 seats. AAP, TMC, and Goa Forward may together win four to five seats if the predictions of local political analysts are to be believed.
Meanwhile, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said the BJP will get 18 to 22 seats to form a government in Goa. However, he went on to add that his party would seek the support of MGP if needed. It means, the CM is not 100 percent confident that his party would gain a majority on its own.
Suraj Nandrekar says the BJP may not continue Pramod Sawant as the Chief Minister if the party relies on the regional parties or Independents to form a government. Sitting MLA Vishwajit Rane, a young leader from the BJP may emerge as a consensus candidate for the CM's position if the party gets the support of Independents and regional parties to form a government, he added.
Sources said the game of poaching of MLAs is imminent by both the BJP and Congress once the results are out on March 10. President of Goa Pradesh Congress Party (GPCC) Girish Chodankar said, "baffled by the imminent defeat, the BJP in Goa hacked the phones of Congress leaders to find a way to come to power illegally again. The BJP misused power and snooped on Congress leaders including former CM Digambar Kamat."
Calling the phone tapping of the Congress leaders as a serious issue, Digambar Kamat said, the BJP should stop resorting to such acts to come to power.