Panaji: The Congress on Saturday emerged as the single largest party in Goa, relegating the BJP to the second position in Assembly polls which threw up a hung house with both parties hoping to form the new government.
The Congress won 17 seats in the 40-member house, while the BJP bagged 13. The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), the Goa Forward Party (GFP) and the independents won three seats each, while the NCP bagged one. In the last polls, the BJP had won 21 seats and the Congress nine.
Enthused by the results, the Congress held a series of meetings to fine-tune its post-poll strategy and stake claim to form the government, with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar too saying that the BJP remains in the race.
AICC general secretary in-charge of Goa Digvijay Singh said the Congress is open to an alliance with non-BJP outfits like GFP and MGP.
"The party has designated Member of Parliament Venugopal to hold discussions with non-BJP groups."
The party has the support of Rohan Khaunte, an independent who has won, but it will have to take on-board either GFP or MGP to reach to the magical figure of 21 needed to prove majority in the House. It is also reaching out to the lone NCP winner Churchill Alemao to shore up numbers.
Party sources said three former CMs ? Digambar Kamat, Pratapsinh Rane and Luizinho Faleiro - are in the race for the top job. Singh said the newly-elected MLAs will choose their leader tomorrow and meet Governor Mridula Sinha to stake claim for government formation.
Despite suffering reverses, the BJP has not lost hope of coming back to power in the politically volatile state where several chief ministers in the past have seen abrupt end to their tenures.
"In the situation of a fractured mandate, everyone is in the race to form the government. We are also there. If BJP acts like a core group and brings together smaller parties, we can still give a stable government," Parrikar said.
"BJP is in the best position to form the government, I am confident of getting necessary support from others," the former Goa chief minister said.
Chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar, who bit the dust in Mandrem, submitted his resignation to Governor Mridula Sinha after his party finished way behind the simple majority mark.
Besides the humiliating defeat of Parsekar, who lost by over 7,000 votes, six BJP ministers, too, were trounced.
MGP leader Sudin Dhavalikar said his party is yet to decide on post-poll tie-up. "We are yet to decide on alliance. We will inform the media as and when it is decided."
GFP leader Vijai Sardesai said the party will not take any decision in a hurry. "We will take all our MLAs and party executive in confidence before deciding on any alliance."