Goa Election 2017: Manohar Parrikar becomes fallback man for BJP as Laxmikant Parsekar proves a damp squib

BJP president Amit Shah's words spoken in appreciation of Manohar Parrikar is indicative of the fact that the party couldn't manage Goa without him. The party does not have any other leader in its benches to match his persona both as a leader and also as an administrator in a state which has country's smallest 40-member legislative assembly and whose politics is marked more by corruption and turbulence than by transparency and stability.

It seems that defence minister's services in Goa is not just required as a prime campaigner, as an organiser, as the party's supreme leader there but also as the designated person who would be back at the helm if the BJP returns to power in this coastal state.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Five years ago Parrikar had led BJP to victory, first ever clear majority in a state where fractured mandate had become some sort of norm. That victory was even sweeter for the BJP because Goa has a substantive population of minority Christians and yet he was able to integrate the community, with a favourable intervention from the church to the party. For the first time BJP gave tickets to as many as eight Christians candidates, which was roughly proportionate to the percentage of Christian population in the state. That gamble had paid off, all of them emerged victorious.

Parrikar's importance and political sharpness of mind, as also his connect with the RSS-BJP leadership can be assessed from the fact that even as IITian turned BJP politician belonged to tiny state of Goa, he was once in contention for the post of BJP's national president and in November 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought him to the centre to become defence minister of the country, be part of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) and give a clear signal that henceforth Parrikar was part of pecking order at the top. Apart from administrative efficiency what had gone in his favour was his clean image, for Modi wanted someone at the helm in defence ministry whose personal integrity is unquestioned. Parrikar was not inclined to leave Goa chief minister's post, come to centre and be part of national government and politics but his wishes were overruled by Modi.

Unfortunately for the BJP, Parrikar successor, Laxmikant Parsekar though picked and pushed by his predecessor proved to be "quite a mediocre". The BJP and its supporters in the state face a crisis of confidence.

Shah's words spoken at a rally in Vasco in Goa on Monday is thus of significant import: “Goa has given a big asset to the country in Parrikar. He is a jewel in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet. There is a huge demand for Parrikar in Delhi and also here in Goa. The people of Goa demand that we should send Parrikar back to Goa. Whether he returns to Goa or continues to remain at the Centre will be decided only after the elections. But I want to say one thing, wherever Parrikar may be, the government in Goa will be under his leadership. Goans should be assured of that."

Former BJP president and Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari who is also in-charge of Goa had earlier set off speculations on Parrikar by saying next Goa chief minister could be sent from the centre.

A BJP leader told Firstpost that it is clear that if the BJP returns to power, Parrikar would relinquish defence minister's charge and assume chief minister's post. His possible replacement at the centre is not being discussed for now, for there are too many ifs and buts.

What made BJP turn to Parrikar is not the leader's sustained desire to return to Goa but is guided by the prevailing circumstances. The language issue, which had brought RSS and ruling BJP in the state on the war path is one of them. Some churches going on the offensive against the BJP on demonetisation and some other issues too is also a matter of concern.

The RSS's former state unit chief Subhash Veligkar who continues to be part of the saffron fountainhead and Bharatiya Basha Suraksha Manch, untiring resolve to teach BJP a lesson in these elections is an issue with the BJP brass. Modi-Shah named Gadkari as in-charge for Goa elections because of the fact that minister's connect with RSS brass is excellent and is known for resolving issues with certain forthrightness.

Though Velingkar is not in a position to cause much damage to the BJP's prospects but the fact that he and Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) mentored by him is supporting MGP could upset calculations in some closely contested constituencies.

Parrikar's love for Goa has been unflinching so much so that his disappearances from New Delhi to Goa on every weekend raised eyebrows in the power corridors. Incidentally, Pathankot and Uri terror attacks on the Indian Army bases took place on weekends and on both instances the defence minister was seen in action. The simple reason for him missing in action on day was that he was away in Goa, taking care of organisational matters.

Published Date: Jan 24, 2017 17:49 PM | Updated Date: Jan 24, 2017 17:50 PM

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