Panaji: By Saturday morning, the era of Manohar Parrikar in Goa will be over at least for now, as the party expects to finalise his successor by the afternoon.
But for now, all hell appears to have broken loose as far as the succession process is concerned, with multiple players throwing their hat in the ring and Deputy Chief Minister Francis D'Souza threatening to quit the government if he was forced to work under party leaders junior to him.
Following the elevation of Parrikar, serving his third stint as chief minister from March 2012, to the union cabinet possibly as the defence minister, Health Minister Laxmikant Parsenkar and Speaker Rajendra Arlekar have emerged as the key contenders to become Goa's 11th chief minister.
But even as D'Souza refused to work under either of the two leaders, citing his seniority, union Minister for Tourism and Culture Shripad Naik has shown intent to join the list of potential successors to Parrikar.
Naik is expected to meet BJP president Amit Shah before the party's highest decision making body, the parliamentary board, meets to decide on the Goa situation.
D'Souza, who has claimed the support of 12 legislators, both from the party and Independents sympathetic to the BJP, has also indicated that he may not be averse to working under Shripad Naik as the chief minister.
Earlier Friday, all the 20 BJP legislators attended a meeting at the legislative assembly premises, where they were formally informed by Parrikar in one-to-one meetings about the goings on and his elevation to the union cabinet.
The only person who could not make it to the meeting was D'Souza, who on his return from an overseas trip Friday afternoon, told reporters that he had "all qualities to become chief minister", a comment whose after-effects continued to reverberate through Friday evening.
Several Catholic legislators too have been rooting for D'Souza to be made the first BJP chief minister from the Catholic community.
"It will send a great message to the rest of the country that the BJP has a minority chief minister, especially with another round of state elections around the corner. The BJP will be able to erase the communal tag once and for all," BJP legislator from Calangute, Michael Lobo told reporters.
But, speaking to reporters on the issue of appointing a Catholic chief minister, Parrikar said that as far as representation goes, the BJP has more minority legislators than the Congress.
The ultimate decision will be taken by the party, "based on all feedback", he said.
"I don't reveal what my party decides, until it finally decides," Parrikar said, adding that he had not spoken directly to D'Souza yet.
A tearful Parrikar, while speaking at his last media briefing post cabinet meeting as chief minister, however, said there were at least "two, three, even four" candidates in the fray for the chief minister's chair, after he departs for his union ministry assignment.
The chief minister also said the party's parliamentary board would finalise the name for chief minister by Saturday afternoon.
He also said the party's central leaders Rajiv Pratap Rudy and B.S. Yeddyurappa would be in Goa to oversee the transition Saturday.
Refusing to divulge any details about the succession, Parrikar said: "Tomorrow at one o'clock on the 8th (November) you can ask."
Explaining in detail the course of events expected to play out until Sunday, Parrikar said he would be meeting his legislators Saturday where his successor would be chosen and the name sent to the party's parliamentary board for ratification.
Parrikar will then resign as chief minister, as a result of which his entire cabinet will automatically be considered dissolved.
The new chief minister and select members of the new cabinet will be sworn in Saturday afternoon.
"The new team will be then decided by the new chief minister," Parrikar said.
After being sworn in as union cabinet minister Sunday, Parrikar on the following day will arrive in Lucknow to file his nomination papers for a berth in the Rajya Sabha.
As far as the race for chief ministership goes, party legislators off the record claimed Friday that Health Minister Laxmikant Parsenkar leads the race, even as he claimed: "Whatever the decision is, it will be unanimous".
Ironically, a section of BJP leaders had Thursday claimed it was Arlekar who had the edge.
However the speaker Friday told IANS cautiously. "Whoever comes in chair of chief minister, will be the best."
D'Souza has, however, refused to work under both Parsekar and Arlekar.
"I will not work under junior leaders. I will opt out of government and continue to become an MLA," D'Souza said.
Asked if he was willing to work under Shripad Naik, he said: "I will think about it".