Goa's Manohar Parrikar no longer riding pillion

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 07, 2012 21:40 hrs

Panaji: First elected chief minister after a dramatic coup on Oct 24, 2000, Manohar Parrikar was expected to arrive that night at the state secretariat, where journalists, bureaucrats and other usual suspects jostled about.

As the white luxury sedan rolled in under the porch, a sentry ritualistically opened the rear door to allow the new chief minister to alight, only to find a personal security officer stepping out.

Clad in a crumpled shirt and trouser and wearing a chappal, the salt and pepper haired Parrikar had hopped out of the front seat adjoining the driver and was already under the archway to the corridors of power.

In 2012, however, the 56-year-old Parrikar is no longer riding pillion. With a simple majority of 21 in the 40-seat assembly and the added buffer of a three-member alliance partner and two Independents, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) helmsman in Goa is very much in the driver's seat of power.

The Indian Institute of Technology-Mumbai (IIT-M) graduate in metallurgy has been the BJP's face in Goa for nearly two decades now. A father of two sons, Parrikar, a widower, gives you the impression of being one of the most-easy going chief ministers of Goa.

Whether it's eating a fruit salad at a street stall, spontaneously directing traffic on busy roads or committing an earthy fashion faux pas by wearing chappals with a formal blazer, the public perception of Parrikar here is that of the man next door who only happens to be chief minister.

Parrikar's easy-going image, however, took a battering a couple of years into office thanks to a power-induced arrogance that he acknowledged and promised to correct during an interaction with the media in the run-up to the just-concluded polls.

Parrikar's time in power from 2000 to 2005 was marked by two major events, each of which are indicative of the nature of governance he provided: creation of infrastructure for the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in record time and the controversial notification converting three religious public holidays - including Mahashivratri and Good Friday - to restricted holidays.

While the former brought him praise, the holiday call, especially Good Friday, fuelled talk about Parrikar heading a government which was insensitive to the minorities. Interestingly, Parrikar, who claims to have mellowed down some, also apologised for this decision last month and wished that there was someone who could have advised him against it then.

This time around, the BJP has six Christian legislators and the support of two Christian Independents, perhaps just for such kind of "advice".

The poster boy of efficient administration in Goa has also "suffered" from constant comparisons to his good friend and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi; an icky political simile, especially in a state where Christians account for nearly 23 percent of the 14 lakh population.

Comparison's to Modi had also been fuelled by Parrikar's attending a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) parade on Dussehra in Panaji, wearing the customary attire, during his first stint as chief minister.

While a massive anti-incumbency wave and an anti-corruption plank propelled Parrikar's BJP to power Tuesday, former BJP governments have shown promise, but have not delivered consistently enough to curb corruption.

Tainted politicians like Atanasio Monserrate, Francisco Pacheco, Mauvin Godinho, Pandurang Madkaikar and Digambar Kamat have all been members of Parrikar's cabinet at one time or the other from 2000 to 2005.

Parrikar has also been accused by his critics of pandering to a coterie of caste elite and ignoring genuine grievances of the rank and file that firmly support the party.

A nervous bundle of energy, Parrikar has often fallen prey to the foot-in-the-mouth syndrome.

One that cost him dearly was when, in a television interview a couple of years back, Parrikar, who was in the running for the BJP's top post, likened outgoing party president L.K. Advani to "rancid pickle" while commenting on personalities, performance and ageing.

The comment possibly cut short his ride to the party's top slot.

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