MEDIUM OF INSTRUCTION: Manohar Parrikar went back on his assurance as the leader of the opposition that he would review the policy of extending grants to Primary English Medium Schools run by the church if the BJP returned to power
In the run up to the 2012 election and after returning to power, Manohar Parrikar, the then Chief Minister, had made a lot of promises. The BJP government and Manohar Parrikar have done a U turn on every one of his promises, including the medium of instruction, banning casinos and removing them from the Mandovi river, punishing those who were indicted by the Shah Commission for illegal mining, and zero tolerance for corruption
MANOHAR Parrikar may be India’s Raksha Mantri, but historically, as a politician and subsequently Goa’s chief minister, he has been the rakshak of the worst criminal and corrupt elements in the state. No one objects to him carrying out surgical strikes against Pakistani terrorists. But in Goa, he is better known for his surgical strikes to topple the Congress government and induce defections with the offer of huge bribes.
In 1999, Parrikar – who was then just an MLA representing Panjim – joined hands with Congress rebel Francisco Sardinha to topple the Luizinho Faleiro government. Within a year, he carried out another surgical political strike against the Congress by toppling the Sardinha government to become chief minister himself on October 24, 2000, exposing his duplicity.
Commission to CM
The excuse for toppling the Sardinha government was that he had taken a huge kick back from the broker who had agreed to raise Rs 150 crores through the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) for the government, which was then bankrupt. However, after becoming chief minister, when the then managing director of EDC told Parrikar that the commission was meant to be paid to the chief minister, he did not cancel the contract. We do not know whether the broker paid Parrikar the commission that was meant for Sardinha.
Horse Trading Expert
In the Goa Assembly elections in 2000, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Parrikar managed to get only 17 of 40 seats. Parrikar captured power by the most blatant horse trading. He persuaded two of the most corrupt MLAs who were elected on United Goans Democratic Party (UGDP) tickets – Babush Monserrate and Mickky Pacheco – to extend support to the BJP.
Parrikar also induced the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party’s (MGP) Sudin Dhavalikar and the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Narhari Haldankar to help him secure the magic number of 21 seats in the Assembly to form the government and become the BJP chief minister for the first time since Goa’s Liberation.
Babush, the monster rat of Taleigao, was offered the money-making Town and Country Planning portfolio. He promptly came up with the notorious Regional Plan 2011 (RP), and literally sold Goa to the building lobby.
Plans were kept at his residence in Taleigao and builders were allowed to dictate to the officials what colour they wanted to paint the plan in. Various colours in the plan represent agricultural areas, orchards, settlements and commercial zones. Babush permitted mass conversion of agricultural orchards and even forests, into concrete jungles.
As Town and Country Planning minister, he demanded and was given a separate outline development plan for the village panchayat of Taleigao though Outline Development Plans (ODP) were only legally permitted for urban areas. If Caranzalem and Dona Paula turned into another Patto complex with buildings going up to eight and 10 floors instead of the traditional ground plus one, it was because of Monserrate’s greed.
Parrikar considered Monserrate his most valuable asset even though he was the most corrupt because he not only helped form a BJP government for the first time since Liberation but also helped it to retain power.
To get over the amendment in the Representation of People’s Act which ruled out splits, Monserrate resigned his seat as a UGDP MLA and got himself re-elected as a BJP MLA. To help the tottering Parrikar government remain in power, he persuaded Pandurang Madkaikar and Isidore Fernandes to resign their seats also as Congress MLAs and re-contest and win as BJP MLAs, proving that with money and muscle power, it is possible to win many seats in Goa irrespective of which party a candidate stands on.
No Full Term
Despite all the horse trading and patronage extended to corrupt MLAs like Babush, Micky and Sudin Dhavalikar, the Parrikar government could not complete its full term and was toppled by the Congress on February 2, 2005.
The BJP speaker even ordered the physical removal of independent MLA Felipe Neri Rodrigues from the assembly to ensure that the BJP did not lose the vote of no confidence against the Parrikar government. It tried to get the MLA disqualified, claiming that he had become a member of the BJP. It was subsequently found that his signature in the BJP’s membership register was forged by the then BJP president.
Even the loyalty of the late Mathany Saldanha who had extended support to the BJP could not save the Parrikar government which was dismissed by the then Congress-appointed governor S C Jamir. The biggest blow to the BJP was of course the defection of de facto deputy chief minister Digambar Kamat. He had been given the responsibility of protecting the BJP MLAs from straying from their sanctuary in BJP-ruled Rajasthan but betrayed the BJP himself.
While in the opposition between 2007 and 2012, when Digambar Kamat succeeded him as chief minister, Parrikar made many promises. He had promised to review and revise the final regional plan 2021 which was objected to by many village groups. Unlike the draft RP 2021, in the final plan notified by chief minister Kamat during the end of the Assembly tenure, a provision was made for eco-tourism zones in violation of the directives of the draft regional plan.
However, when Parrikar became chief minister for the second time in 2012, he only suspended the RP 2021. The provision to promote eco-tourism in ecologically sensitive areas within the CRZ was retained and more than a dozen permissions given, including for a project in Sanguem promoted by his younger son Abhishek Parrikar.
When Parrikar was the leader of the opposition, he had promised to suspend the grants to English-medium private primary schools run by the Church. In fact, he actively took part in the agitations organised by the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) under the leadership of the then Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Subhash Velingkar and the late Sashikala Kakodkar.
There are many photographs showing Parrikar demanding that grants be limited only to vernacular schools at the primary level. But just before the 2012 elections, Parrikar struck a deal with Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao to formalise grants to church schools which had switched from Devanagiri Konkani to English because of sharp fall in enrolment.
Digambar Kamat had continued grants to church schools after their shift to the English medium though it had no legal sanction. When Parrikar became chief minister, in the first of his U turns, he issued orders to the education department to continue grants to English medium primary schools run by the church.
But this was limited only to English-medium primary schools run by the church, while those run by private managements and even prominent majority community managed schools like People’s High School and Mushtifund were not given grants. This led to a revolt by Velingkar who has set up his own party to fight the BJP in the 2017 election for its U turn on the medium of instruction issue.
While in the opposition, Parrikar had also opposed the licenses to offshore casinos by the Pratap Singh Rane government. He promised that if the BJP came back to power, no new licenses would be issued and that the existing offshore casinos would be moved from the Mandovi River and relocated.
But after he became the chief minister, he did another U turn. He forgot all about his promises to ban casinos and instead issued fresh offshore casino licenses to the Highstreet Cruises and Entertainment group controlled by Jaidev Mody who is allegedly close to the top BJP leader in Delhi.
Mody is alleged to have made a huge contribution to the BJP’s campaign funds in 2012. His proximity to the BJP was demonstrated by the fact that he occupied a seat in the front row alongside L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj during Parrikar’s swearing in as chief minister in 2012. It is alleged that Mody gave shares of the publicly listed entertainment group to several BJP leaders including Manohar Parrikar.
Within a few months of Parrikar becoming chief minister in 2012, the Supreme Court suspended mining in Goa. It accepted the Shah Commission report which claimed that the loss to the state and central governments due to illegal mining amounted to more than Rs 35,000 crores.
It was alleged that successive chief ministers Pratap Singh Rane and Digambar Kamat had illegally permitted mining concessions to be converted into leases after the expiry period. The commission had also pointed out that the mine owners in Goa had extracted ore far beyond the authorised capacity and had even set up mining operations within wildlife sanctuaries.
But Parrikar did not take any action against Rane, Kamat or any mine owners including politicians like Joaquim Alemao who was running mines on behalf of Anil Salgaonkar. On the contrary, he spent more than Rs 500 crores to help owners of mining trucks and barges who had lost their source of livelihood due to the ban on mining.
It is the mining companies which should have paid the compensation as they made huge profits during the China boom in demand for ore. Prices had shot up from an average of US $20 dollars per ton to $200 following the hike in demand for steel in China just before the Olympic Games. During the end of the BJP’s tenure, Parrikar is now claiming that the Shah Commission made a mistake and the actual loss due to illegal mining is only Rs 3,500 crores.
Petrol Flip Flop
Before he became chief minister again in 2012 he had promised that he would waive the Value Added Tax (VAT) of 24 percent on petrol. In the first budget he presented, Parrikar fulfilled his promise and reduced VAT on petrol to a token of one per cent. This provided enormous relief to Goans who rely on private transport, particularly two wheelers, because of terrible public transport system. Private buses are overcrowded, and both taxis and auto rickshaws have no meters and loot Goans and tourist alike.
The tax waiver brought the price of petrol to Rs 40 when it was more than Rs 70 elsewhere in India. But Laxmikant Parsekar, who succeeded Parrikar as chief minister when the latter became defence minister, has restored VAT on petrol to more than 20 percent. The relief has thus been withdrawn, marking another U turn by Parrikar.
Parrikar, in his first budget, had also promised to provide an allowance to all unemployed youth. This was meant to be an improved version of the pre-employment training scheme (PETS) he had introduced when he became chief minister for the first time. The new scheme also proposed to provide training to Goan youth so that they could get jobs not only in the government, but also in the private sector. The scheme was never implemented.
Parrikar has been blamed for the huge increase in Goa’s debt burden. Due to the suspension of mining and the withdrawal of VAT on petrol, the government lost their main source of revenue. The situation was aggravated by a drop in tourist charters which further affected the government’s financial position.
Despite this, Parrikar was obsessed with extending benefits to the voters. He started the Laadli Laxmi and the Graha Adhaar schemes, meant to compensate for rising prices in running homes. Even though prices have fallen, the amount under the Griha Adhaar has been increased though the government has no money. Worse still, Parrikar started work on half a dozen new bridges, including a third bridge across the Mandovi River. The result is that the Goa government is deeply in debt, and it has been estimated that every child born in Goa has a loan to pay of Rs 10 lakhs.
Crooks Turned Allies
When Parrikar returned to power, he claimed that the BJP’s 2012 victory was because of the rampant corruption by the Digambar Kamat-led Congress government. More specifically, Parrikar himself attacked both Congress’ Dabolim MLA Mauvin Godinho and Congress’ Cumberjua MLA Pandurang Madkaikar as among the most corrupt.
It will be recalled that as far back as the late 90s Parrikar had filed a complaint against then Power minister Godinho for extending power rebates to steel rolling mills against the decision of the then cabinet headed by Pratap Singh Rane. Parrikar had not only targeted Pandurang Madkaikar, but also asked his colleagues in the Legislative Assembly to expose the misdeeds of these two MLAs.
Taking U turns becomes addictive. Parrikar may have succeeded in getting over his addiction for cigarettes, though I understand he still chews tobacco. However, he is obviously finding it much more difficult to get over his U turn habits whether as chief ministers or in his new position as India’s Defence minister.
On the eve of the 2017 assembly elections, Parrikar insisted that Godinho had only attempted to commit a scam and therefore there was no harm in admitting him to the BJP. In his desperation to ensure that the BJP returns to power in Goa, Parrikar has also taken in Madkaikar, the allegedly corrupt Cumberjua MLA who quit the Congress as he decided that the grass is greener on the other side. Significantly the BJP has not put up candidates against two of the most notorious politicians in the state – Churchill Alemao in Benaulim and Mickky Pacheco in Nuvem.
Alemao still has a case against him of abetment to smuggling, the charge occurring during his tenure as chief minister in the early 90s when his brother Alvernas was accused of attempting to smuggle large quantities of gold.
There are cases with the vigilance department against Alemao for the purchase of water tanks to bribe voters during parliamentary elections. The latest case against him in which he was arrested is the Luis Berger case where he alleged to have taken a kickback of Rs 87 lakhs for awarding the contract of a Japanese international co-operation project for water supply during his tenure as Public Works Department minister.
Mickky Pacheco has been convicted in a case of assaulting a junior engineer of the Electricity Department and was arrested for abetment to suicide in the Nadia Torado case. Chief minister Parrikar who declared that there would be zero tolerance for corruption has done a U turn by taking the most corrupt MLAs from various parties into the BJP in his desperation to return to power.
As Defence Minister also he has committed many U turns. He said anyone who questioned the Indian Army’s ‘surgical strike’ against Pakistan was anti-national. Subsequently he himself admitted that it was not a surgical strike in the traditional meaning of the word. Unlike the case in the US encounter, to kill terrorist chief Osama Bin Laden, the Indian army did not use a helicopter. It only crossed the actual line of control.
Former defence ministers and generals have also claimed that the army has carried out similar strikes in the past and Parrikar’s claim that the BJP government or Modi was the first to carry out a surgical strike was incorrect. Parrikar also invited ridicule by comparing the strike to the liberation of Sita by Hanuman in the Ramayan.
Parrikar has lost all credibility because either he or the BJP government has taken a U turn on every promise he made – from the medium of instruction to taking action against those guilty of illegal mining. As former RSS chief and BBSM convenor Velingkar has correctly pointed out, Parrikar is a pathological liar who has not only let down the people of Goa but has double crossed his own party and the Sangh Parivar for petty political games.
How can anyone trust Parrikar and the BJP to fulfil the new promises they are making in the manifesto when they have not carried out the old promises and have done a U turn on every assurance given to the Goan voters in 2012?