Three ex-Congress MLAs, one from BJP likely to join Goa Cabinet

Four Goa MLAs, including three Congress rebels who joined the ruling BJP a couple of days ago, would be inducted in the Cabinet on Saturday, sources said on July 12.

Ten of the 15 Congress MLAs, led by Leader of the Opposition Chandrakant Kavlekar, switched sides and joined the BJP on July 10.

Accompanied by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, the breakaway group met BJP president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah and its working president J.P. Nadda in New Delhi on July 11. All the MLAs returned to Goa on July 12.

However, Mr. Sawant stayed back to attend a high-level meeting on the issue of mining in Goa, which has come to a standstill following a February 2018 Supreme Court order. Mr. Shah and Union Minister of Mines Pralhad Joshi will attend the meeting.

A top BJP source said three of the 10 former Congress MLAs and Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Michael Lobo would be sworn in as ministers on July 13.

However, he did not disclose the names of the three former Congress MLAs who would get ministerial berths.

When contacted, Mr. Lobo, a BJP MLA, confirmed that he and three other MLAs would join the Cabinet.

Mr. Lobo was instrumental in convincing the 10 Congress lawmakers to switch sides, giving the BJP an overwhelming majority in the 40-member Assembly, the sources said.

In order to accommodate the new MLAs in the Cabinet, Mr. Sawant would be dropping four ministers, most of them from the BJP’s alliance partners, they added.

Talking to PTI on July 11, Mr. Sawant said a decision on the fate of the coalition partners in the Cabinet would be taken only after he returned to Goa.

However, the sources said all the three ministers of the Goa Forward Party (GFP) — its president and Deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai, Vinod Palyekar and Jayesh Salgaonkar — were expected to be dropped, along with Independent MLA and Revenue Minister Rohan Khaunte.

The GFP, a regional party, has been with the BJP ever since the saffron outfit formed the government in the coastal State after the February 2017 Assembly polls.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kavlekar, who returned to the state from New Delhi, told reporters at the Goa airport that he took the decision to join the BJP as his Assembly constituency had remained underdeveloped all these years.

“I was in the opposition for long which was affecting the development of my constituency. I have taken this step as the BJP is a party which has been pro-development and when I remain in power, it will help the people of my constituency,” he said.

Besides Mr. Kavlekar, the other MLAs who switched sides are Atanasio Monserratte, Jeniffer Monserratte, Francis Silveira, Philip Nery Rodrigues, Cleaofacio Dias, Wilfred D’Sa, Nilkant Halarnkar, Isidor Fernandes and Antonio Fernandes.