This is power politics

Interview/ Pramod Sawant, Goa chief minister

Goa Story Pramod Sawant

Did the 10 Congress legislators join the BJP on their own?

Yes. They did not have any precondition. The development of their constituencies was the main issue on their minds. This group of legislators is two-thirds of the Congress legislative party. They approached us and we discussed the issue with our central leadership. Their entry was cleared to make the BJP stronger in the state and the government more stable, so that we could give good governance to the people.

Was there any threat to the government? Were you insecure?

A stable government requires a majority of 21 in the legislature. We were 17 from the BJP, three from the Goa Forward Party, and there were independents. Despite all this, there was a constant sense of insecurity and the question of stability. There was a need to have complete majority so that stability is guaranteed. Now we have 27 BJP legislators, and two independents—Govind Gaude and Prasad Gaonkar.

Utpal, son of Manohar Parrikar, has criticised the move.

I will not say anything about it. Manohar Parrikar is my idol. I came into politics because of him. I am chief minister today because of him. The decision has been taken by the central and state leadership after a lot of thought. I have not taken this decision, so I do not want to comment on the remarks made by someone.

Would these newcomers not pressure you by forming a group?

If they wanted to stick to their ideology, they would not have merged with us. We cannot say that all of them are hardcore Congress ideologues. They are strong leaders within their constituencies and people have accepted their leadership. They have their own ideology and now they have decided to merge with us and accept our ideology.

But has this move not resulted in 'Congressification' of the BJP? Now, you are the only one who is a BJP activist to the core.

That is not the case. There are BJP legislators like Milind Naik, Nilesh Cabral, Michael Lobo, Alina Saldanha, Mauvin Godinho and Pandurang Madkaikar. The difference between them and myself is that I have handled various responsibilities in the party.

In the recent Panjim byelection you had strongly attacked Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate. Now he has joined the BJP.

That was politics. We wanted to win. He was the opposing candidate, so it was natural that we criticised him during the elections.

But Monserrate is facing trial for allegedly raping a minor.

People have supported him and elected him and politics is all about who people want as their leader.

You have made his wife, Jennifer, a minister in your cabinet. Did you avoid making him a minister because of the case?

That is not the case. We wanted to give representation to women in the state cabinet. We could not do it earlier. So when we kept this proposal that she should be the minister; Babush cooperated with us.

How will common BJP workers accept all these developments?

It is slightly difficult. But we will explain it to them. This is power politics. Some compromises have to be made.

Your deputy chief minister, Chandrakant Kavlekar, is accused of being the ‘Matka King’ (lynchpin of an illegal gambling empire).

Many people are facing different sort of allegations. This is politics, it happens.

Was not the BJP instrumental in levelling those charges against him while he was in the opposition?

You can say so.