Panaji: Overcoming anti-incumbency, the BJP on Thursday emerged as the single largest party in Goa by winning 20 assembly seats, just one shy of the halfway mark, and quickly enlisted the support of regional outfit MGP and three Independent MLAs to form its government for a third consecutive term in the state.
The tally of 20 was an improvement from 2017, when the BJP had won 13 seats in the 40-member assembly, where the simple majority mark is 21.
The Congress won 11 seats, down from 17 five years ago, and its ally Goa Forward Party (GFP) one, according to data on the EC website.
Three Independents also made it to the assembly.
The AAP and the MGP won two seats each, while the Revolutionary Goans Party bagged one seat, the data showed.
The Mamata Banerjee-led TMC, which had a pre-poll alliance with the MGP and carried out a high-decibel campaign ahead of the February 14 polls, drew a blank.
As it emerged as the single largest party, the BJP moved quickly and secured the support of the three Independent MLAs and the MGP, taking their combined tally in the new House to 25, well above the majority mark.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said the MGP has given an unconditional support to the BJP for government formation.
He said the BJP will discuss the leadership issue in the state during a meeting of its newly elected MLAs on Friday. BJP's Goa election in-charge Devendra Fadnavis said a decision on staking claim to form the government will be taken on Friday after the meeting of the party's legislature wing.
Fadnavis said the MGP has formally given a letter to the BJP extending its support to the party in government formation.
"Both the winning candidates of the MGP will support the BJP along with the three Independent MLAs," the former Maharashtra CM said.
Talking to PTI, Sawant said no decision on leadership has been taken yet and the issue would be discussed on Friday in the meeting of the party's legislative wing in the presence of a central observer.
Senior party leaders, including Fadnavis, Sawant and Goa BJP President Sadanand Tanavade, addressed all the winning candidates of the party at a luxury hotel near here.
Sawant said the BJP will provide a stable government for the next five years with the help of all those who have come forward to back it.
He said the MGP has given an unconditional support to the BJP and a decision on whether or not to give them representation in the new cabinet would be taken later.
All decisions related to staking claim to form the next government would be taken once the BJP legislature party meets in presence of the central observer who would be arriving tomorrow, the chief minister said.
With its dream of coming to power in Goa dashed, the Congress said it respected people's mandate and would sit in opposition.
The BJP won because non-BJP votes got split, the opposition party claimed.
State Congress chief Girish Chodankar told reporters that he took responsibility for the party's dismal performance.
I own the responsibility...we were not able to convince people not to split the votes, he said in the presence of Congress' Goa election in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao. I feel that I have failed as the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president and time has come to replace me, Chodankar added.
The BJP bagged 33.31 per cent of the vote share and the Congress 23.46 per cent.
Among the prominent candidates, Sawant won the election from his traditional Sanquelim Assembly constituency, but his two deputies Manohar Ajgaonkar and Chandrakant Kavlekar lost to Congress candidates.
Independent candidate Utpal Parrikar, the son of Goa's former chief minister Manohar Parrikar, lost to BJP's Atanasio Monserratte from the Panaji Assembly seat.
The Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) chief ministerial candidate in Goa, Amit Palekar, was also defeated.
The lawyer-turned-politician was in the fray from the St Cruz assembly segment.
Congress candidate Rudolfo Fernandes defeated his closest rival and BJP candidate Antonio Fernandes from the St Cruz seat.