Late Manohar Parrikar was a virtual ‘university’ of political nitty-gritty, whose initial successes as a Chief Minister were unfortunately washed away by subsequent u-turns and failure to keep populist promises, Sadguru Patil, author of the former Defence Minister’s first biography ‘Goa, Politics and Parrikar’, said.
Speaking to IANS, Patil, who has worked as a political journalist for various Marathi newspapers in Goa for more than two decades, noted that Parrikar may not have been able to groom quality leadership in the state BJP, because he was focused on cementing his own.
Written in Marathi, the biography focuses on the four-time Chief Minister’s rise from a young RSS volunteer to his death from pancreatic cancer in March this year, while throwing the spotlight on his personal life, business and anecdotes involving him.
The biography also offers critical perspectives to Parrikar’s leadership and administration, an aspect which the media in Goa has been criticised for being notoriously short on.
Asked about the immediate fallout of Parrikar’s death on the BJP in the coastal state, Patil says: “The loss of the prestigious Panaji assembly bypoll after 25 years of BJP rule is the immediate casualty… There is no other leader of Parrikar’s calibre in Goa. The Opposition will try to grab this opportunity and try to weaken a ‘Parrikarless’ BJP”.
Until Parrikar’s meteoric rise as Defence Minister in the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led cabinet, Goan politicians like Eduardo Faleiro (Congress), Ramakant Khalap (then with MGP) and Shripad Naik had only managed to become Union ministers of State. Incidentally, Parrikar was the first Indian Institute of Technology alumnus to become Chief Minister.
“Parrikar became a national figure in a short span of time. He had potential to become Prime Minister,” Patil says, adding that he shared a healthy rapport with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh brass, including the current Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat. He was tipped to be BJP national president in 2009 says Patil. However, a controversial description of senior BJP leader L.K. Advani as “rancid pickle” perhaps put paid to that ambition.
The book, Patil says, focuses “on all sides” of Parrikar, his successes like the bold decision to clear a red light area, successful relocation of the International Film Festival of India to Goa, fast tracking of infrastructure projects, landmark social welfare schemes and the ability to inspire people to have confidence in his ‘clean’ politics, for a while at least.
However, Patil says that his legacy was marred by a string of failures in later years, when his surname “sort of” became an idiom for a ‘U-turn’.
“Parrikar failed to remove floating casinos from the Mandovi river, despite repeated assurances. On the contrary, casinos prospered during his regime,” he says.
He also failed to crack down on illegal mining, despite winning a clear majority in the 2012 assembly polls, when he used rampant illegal mining as a campaign issue.
Parrikar failed to stop a split in the BJP twice, Patil says.
The book briefly covers Parrikar’s highlights as Defence Minister, namely the controversial Rafale fighter jet purchase and surgical strikes.
“No person is ever perfect. A day will come when the new generation will study his administrative and political skills. He himself was like a University and had a following in Goa and the rest of India. Parrikar impacted Goan politics for more than 25 years,” Patil says.