Manohar Parrikar on Monday resigned as the defence minister and is expected to be sworn-in as the chief minister of Goa on Tuesday heading the Bharatiya Janata Party-led ministry which has the support of regional outfits and Independents.
However, the Congress has moved the Supreme Court, seeking a stay on his swearing-in. The SC will hear the matter on Tuesday.
The Congress challenged Goa Governor Mridula Sinha’s decision to appoint Parrikar as the chief minister of the state.
The hurriedly filed petition late in the evening was mentioned at the residence of Chief Justice J S Kehar, who agreed to give an urgent hearing on Tuesday.
A special bench would be constituted as the apex court is on Holi break for a week.
Earlier in the day, Parrikar's resignation as defence minister was accepted by the President.
“I have tendered my resignation as defence minister and sent it to the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office),” Parrikar had said.
“I will be taking the oath tomorrow (Tuesday) evening along with the cabinet ministers,” he added.
The BJP, which failed to cross the half-way mark in the assembly polls with its tally dipping to 13 from 21, pulled off a coup on Sunday by enlisting the support of the Goa Forward Party, the Maharastrawadi Gomantak Party and two Independents, to reach the magic figure of 21 in the 40-member house.
However, the petition filed by Goa Congress Legislature Party leader Chandrakant Kavlekar has sought stay on the swearing-in of Parrikar as the chief minister.
The petition has also sought quashing of the decision of the governor to appoint Parrikar as the chief minister.
The petition, filed by advocate Devdutt Kamath, is likely to be argued by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi and has made the Centre and Goa as the parties.
The Goa CLP leader has argued that the Congress emerged as the single largest party in the polls and under the constitutional convention, the Governor was bound to invite the single largest party to form the government and give it the opportunity to prove majority in the floor test.
It said the decision of the governor is a blatantly unconstitutional action and is illegal, arbitrary and violative of the basic features of the Constitution.
He added that the decision was hastily taken by the governor on Sunday.
Further, the advocate said it was wrong on the part of the Governor to invite the BJP led alliance for government formation as there was no pre-poll alliance.
BJP’s 13 MLAs and other legislators who pledged support to the party met Governor Sinha on Sunday evening, who later invited Parrikar to form the government.
The BJP stole a march on the Congress which failed to muster the numbers despite emerging as the single-largest party with 17 seats.
The Congress was hoping to get the support of the GFP which has bagged three seats in its maiden bid at the hustings.
But by deft moves, coordinated by party veteran and Union minister Nitin Gadkari, the BJP succeeded in keeping the Congress at bay, winning over smaller parties and Independents, who were keen that Parrikar should lead the ministry.
Parrikar, 61, an engineer from Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, led the BJP in 2012 to victory and became the chief minister. He, however, was made the defence minister at the Centre in 2014 and was succeeded by Laxmikant Parsekar as the chief minister.
Parsekar was defeated in Mandrem constituency this time and also most of the ministers in his cabinet failed to win.
Parrikar, who graduated to the BJP from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ranks, had also served as chief minister of the state from 2000 to 2002 and from 2002 to 2005.
Right from the start of the campaign this time, Parrikar was widely seen as the chief minister probable. He also extensively campaigned for the party in his home state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the campaign and before, lavished praises on Parrikar over his competence and decision-making capacity as the defence minister, especially in the context of the surgical strike on terror launch pads across the border in Jammu and Kashmir.
Asked about his two-year stint at the Centre, Parrikar said, “Initially I was finding the role as the defence minister as difficult but during last two-and-a-half years I have done my job well. I have done it with utter honesty.”
“The defence ministry is such a portfolio where allegations are always levelled against the minister but during last two-and-a-half years, despite so much of procurement, there is not a single allegation against the ministry or me,” he said.
“If I want to sum up my achievements as the defence minister, I can say, these are boosting of the morale of the force and better procurements,” he said.
Parrikar said that through various defence deals, the ministry has saved crores of rupees as many tenders had earlier been over-quoted.
Image: Manohar Parrikar. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters