This is the fourth time that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has formed the government in Goa and it’s no surprise that all the stints were under Manohar Parrikar – who has proved himself to be the saffron party’s best bet in this small state. Except in 2012, when it got a clear mandate of 21 assembly seats excluding the alliance seats in the House of 40, on all the other three occasions it was Manohar ‘bhai’ who did the party proud with his astute skills of machination. And the recent election is one such example of this leader’s mastery, with the Congress outwitted in a nail-biting finish.
The February 2017 election is a homecoming and another stint as Chief Minister for Parrikar. Though elevated as Union Defence Minister in November 2014, Parrikar was always inclined towards State politics. His return to State politics after a gap of nearly two and half years was with a ‘bang’– as it saw the formation of a BJP-led coalition government in Goa, despite failing to secure a simple majority in the polls.
The 61-year old politician sewed up a coalition within just 24 hours after the Assembly results were declared on March 11; an election that gave the BJP 13 and the Congress 17 seats. Parrikar literally snatched power from the hands of the Congress party that actually emerged as the single largest party during the polls. While the oldest national political outfit was busy ‘presuming’ things in their favour, Parrikar turned the cards around, proving his majority before the Governor and then on the Floor of the House.
Right from the start of campaigning, the BJP had sent across a subtle message that if it won the government would be headed by Parrikar, who led the party’s campaign from the front. It was the State legislative wing of the saffron party that brought about Parrikar’s homecoming by making him the Chief Minister for the fourth time.
Despite having just 13 MLAs in hand, the BJP managed to win the support of two regional parties – Goa Forward and MGP besides the backing of three Independents – thus outsmarting the Congress, with a total of 22 MLAs in hand.
Often known as a ‘master’ of politics, Parrikar proved the political analysts true, when he displayed splendid political acumen and skill in forging a coalition with its former allies and the recent ‘opponent’, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the hardcore anti-BJP Goa Forward party led by MLA and Minister Vijai Sardessai.
“We joined hands with BJP only because the party agreed to the return of Parrikar as Chief Minister. It is always good to work under his administration. Parrikar’s comeback to the State is a positive sign and we are confident that under him we would give a stable, clean governance,” MGP leader cum MLA and Minister Sudin Dhavalikar told TNV.
Parrikar’s journey from being an IITian to Chief Minister of Goa and then the Defence Minister under the Narendra Modi-led cabinet and now back as Chief Minister is fascinating. The path involved bumpy rides, but he made it through more or less smoothly. Parrikar was first elected to the Goa Assembly in 1994 from Panaji assembly constituency and remained undefeated till the March 2012 elections.
In a state known for political swings as well as rise and fall of ministries, Parrikar’s first stint as Chief Minister was from October 24, 2000 to February 27, 2002. He had his next term at the top slot in the state from June 5, 2002 to January 29, 2005. And then from March 2012 to November 8, 2014. While his first two terms were cut short due to the anti-defection factor, his last term ended as the Prime Minister hand-picked him for the Union cabinet.
“The return of Manohar Parrikar to State politics has always been a dream of every BJP leader and we are happy that we would be once again running the government under his able leadership,” BJP MLA Michael Lobo said.
Having been sworn in as Chief Minister on March 14, Parrikar has to get himself elected as a State Assembly legislative member within six months. There is a lot of speculation about which seat he may contest for the polls. While Panaji has always been his best bet, it is unlikely that Parrikar would contest from there, considering that a young BJP leader and close aide of Parrikar – Siddharth Kuncolienkar – has been ruling the constituency ever since the former left it.
“I have many choices before me … will take a call at the right time,” Parrikar had told media persons. He was born to a middle class business family in Mapusa. Speculations are also high that he may contest from his hometown, which has always been a cake-walk for the BJP under MLA Francis D’Souza.
Manohar Gopalkrishna Prabhu Parrikar graduated to the BJP from the ranks of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He joined the RSS in his school days and always held that the ideology and training he received from the organisation stood him in good stead in public life, most importantly in decision-making.
The top brass of the BJP, right from Narendra Modi to party president Amit Shah to Union Ministers like Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari, have often lavished praises on Parrikar for his dedication and hard work. He was showered with praises across the country during the ‘Surgical Strike’ last year.
A leader who enjoys acceptance from the BJP and beyond, Parrikar has played a key role in making the party a force to reckon with in Goa, which had remained a Congress bastion for a long time, with regional outfits having pockets of influence. The 2012 March election was one such example, when the electorate came out in large numbers in support of the BJP only because it was headed by Parrikar – giving him an absolute majority.
Looking at his magnificent performance post election results, political analysts say that Parrikar has once again shown his mettle in cobbling up an alliance government. His political skills have even attracted some in the Congress – with one of its MLAs Vishwajit Rane quitting the party and deciding to re-contest to support the BJP- government.
If rumours are to be believed, it has been learnt that Parrikar is now on a mission to divide the Congress in a bid to fulfill the Prime Minister’s dream of ‘Congress mukt Bharat’. Apparently a few Congress leaders and MLAs are in contact with Parrikar, who is eyeing more and more support to provide a stable government for the next five years to the people of Goa.
Having nearly nine non-BJP MLAs in the coalition government, the biggest challenge before Parrikar is to ensure the stability of this government – considering the fact that MLAs like Vijai Sardessai and Rohan Khaunte have been up in arms against the then BJP government’s anti-people, anti-environmental policies. Parrikar, who has faced defection from the alliance partners in the past, leading to toppling of government, will have to be ‘extra cautious’ in his decision making while pleasing his allies. After all he has to primarily protect and safeguard the interests of the State.
Parrikar’s political career so far
- 1988: Joined BJP
- 1994: Entered State politics and got elected to the Second Legislative Assembly of the State from Panaji seat
- 1994 -2000: General Secretary & Spokesman of BJP
- 2000: Elected for the second term
- October 24, 2000 to February 27, 2002: Nominated as Chief Minister.
- June 5, 2002 to January 29, 2005: Chief Minister for the second term and held portfolios like Home, Education, Finance, General Administration
- June 2007: Elected to the fifth legislative assembly. He was the Leader of Opposition. He was also the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee that exposed illegal mining scam worth Rs 3,500 crores
- March 2012: Elected and became Chief Minister of the sixth legislative assembly – the stint that saw the major decision of suspension of iron-ore mining activities
- November 8, 2014: Resigned as Chief Minister
- Mid- November 2014: Sworn in as Defence Minister
- December 2014: Elected as Rajya Sabha MP from Lucknow
- March 13, 2017: Resigned as Defence Minister
- March 14, 2017: Sworn in as Chief Minister of Goa
Parrikar, an RSS Swayamsevak
Parrikar joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at a young age and became a mukhya shikshak (chief instructor) in the final years of his schooling. After graduating from IIT, he resumed RSS work in his hometown before entering politics. He became a sanghchalak at the age of 26. He was active in the RSS’s North Goa unit. He was seconded by RSS to the BJP with the objective of fighting the MGP. Parrikar has often expressed considerable pride in his RSS background, saying that he learnt “discipline, progressiveness, gender equality, equality of all before the law, nationalism and social responsibility from the RSS.”