Last-ditch efforts by the Bharatiya Janata Party have saved the day for them in Goa. After hectic negotiations that required intervention from Union minister Nitin Gadkari and party president Amit Shah, Goa assembly speaker Pramod Sawant was on Monday evening chosen as the successor to 63-year old veteran Manohar Parrikar.
However, cracks in BJP’s hastily cooked coalition are already showing, with both the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the Goa Forward Party blackmailing the BJP into conceding two berths for deputy chief ministers. Further, reports say that GFP leader Vijay Sardesai had been backing another BJP MLA Vishwajit Rane for the top post, in early signs of resentment in the alliance. In fact, it was Sardesai who had made Parrikar’s return to the state politics as CM in March 2017 as precondition for his support to the BJP.
Analysts and family friends of Parrikar say it is difficult for the BJP to find a replacement for a leader like Parrikar in the state. The three-time Goa CM had been instrumental in building the party from the scratch in his home state.
Humility and his “passion for Goa” is what made him so popular, says Dr Anant Bhagwat, a family friend of the the deceased Goa CM. Dr Bhagwat, the secretary of Pune-based think tank Global Strategic Policy Foundation, recounts several personal encounters with Parrikar.
“When he was the opposition leader in 2008, he rode a two-wheeler scooter to my son’s ceremony with his guard in pillion seat,” says Dr Bhagwat. In fact, Parrikar’s spartan lifestyle has won him admirers in the media as well as the public.
Dr Bhagwat recalls the time an English magazine had carried a cover picture of Parrikar, who was rather shabbily dressed, with three-immaculately-dressed chiefs of the defence forces.
He says that Parrikar had always enjoyed a clean image and always batted for honesty in public and personal life, going on to narrate how the former defence minister of the time had lauded a security guard who had questioned him.
“In Dec 2015, he drove in a Maruti car from the Airport to Siddhi Garden Lawns (Pune) without protocol convoy for my nephew's wedding. He was the union defence minister at the time.
“The watchman, unceremoniously tapped the bonnet of his car & told him to park his car somewhere else. Upon knowing who he was, the watchman rushed to say sorry, but before he could apologise, the MoD congratulated him for doing his duties properly!” he recalls.
Analysts point to Parrikar’s crucial role in raising the BJP from a scratch in Goa at the time of his joining the state politics in 1994. He cultivated a party vote bank nibbling into the Goan Hindu vote bank (approx 66.5 pc, 2011 Census) of the dominant party of the time, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP).
“Now, the MGP has been reduced to three seats,” points out a senior journalist.
Dr Bhagwat says Parrikar’s illustrious educational background coupled with his simple lifestyle rooted in Goan culture made him appeal to the masses.
First elected to the Goa Assembly in 1994, Parrikar went on to serve as the first IIT graduate chief minister of any Indian state in 2000, also helping the BJP win power for the first time in the state. He had served as Goa’s top elected leader four times, most recently from March 2017 till his death on Sunday.
“He was happy to be back in Goa, though he had left a much bigger role at the Centre,” says Dr Bhagwat.
His belief in Goan values endeared him to the locals and his appeal cut across religious lines, he adds.
A senior journalist who has written on RSS says Parrikar represented a thinking within the RSS, which allows karyakartas to raise a family and lead a common family life. On the other hand, there are leaders like Uma Bharti, who gave up all the comforts of a family life to take up a full-time public role, he adds.