UNHYGIENIC: Parrikar the common man was very fond of eating ros omelette and roadside food, particularly from the gados near Alankar Cinema
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
Manohar Parrikar could have converted Goa into a Ram rajya as he wanted to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya, as part of the RSS delegation to Ayodhya which demolished the Babri Masjid. But Parrikar was blinded by his obsession for power and Hindutva. An obsession which followed him to death as the funeral pyre did not go up in flames for quite some time despite repeated efforts…
There was a stage when I considered Manohar Parrikar a friend. There is no denying that he was a competent and honest politician. Unfortunately, his honesty did not prevent him tolerating unlimited corruption to hold on to office. The man who was initially reluctant to enter politics, towards the end was desperate to hold on to his chair. For a whole year Manohar Parrikar who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the most deadly of them all, would not give up a single one of his 20 key portfolios, let alone step down from the chief ministership. Even a peon would not have been allowed to stay in office going by the medical rules of the government.
Even in death it seemed that Parrikar did not want to leave his beloved people. Repeated attempts at lighting the funeral fire failed. It took a good ten minutes for the flames to shoot up and take his soul to parlok.
It cannot be denied in retrospect that Parrikar was not only a hard core RSS pracharak but also totally intolerant of any opinion other than his own. He was the sanjantawala. His colleagues often complained that when they tried to argue or present their case he would dismiss them claiming that he already knew about it.
I met Parrikar for a first time soon after he was elected MLA from the Panjim constituency in 1994. Parrikar who was an excellent PR person had made friends with all the reporters in the press room which was located on the ground floor of the secretariat at the Adil Shah Palace in Panjim. My former colleague, who subsequently became Parrikar’s press advisor, Julio D’Silva, bought him to the Herald office where I worked. Used as I was to dealing with illiterate and uneducated politicians I was impressed by his grasp of the issues that Goa faced. I was equally impressed that he had refused to join the RSS yatra from Diwar island to Delhi to protest the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Vasco Da Gama.
Perhaps Parrikar, the IITN who had an B Tech in metallurgical engineering and would have made a very good research scientist, had already realized that he needed the support of the Catholics if he was to realise his ambition of becoming chief minister of Goa.
Parrikar came across as well-read, competent and concerned about Goa. A true Goenkar indeed, except for traces of his fundamental tendencies which initially he suppressed.
When Parrikar became the chief minister for the first time after he toppled the Sardinha government, he came straight to my underground basement flat in Dona Paula where I toasted him with wine. In the first month of his chief ministership he invited Tara and me twice to dinner at the restaurant-annex of the International Centre. The only other person present was Abhijat, his younger son, who is now in trouble facing charges in the eco-tourism scam. He was then just about ten and went every where his father took him.
On both occasions to our surprise the restaurant at the International Centre subsequently sent the bill to us at home because (as I learnt after I questioned Parrikar) the International Center wanted a grant of `1 crore and he’d assumed that they would not charge us!
Later, during his second tenure as chief minister, I discovered he was a pathological liar. The water pipeline and the sewage of Neptune hotel had got mixed up, contaminating water supply in the whole area leading to a dengue epidemic in Panjim. Parrikar ordered the closure of all restaurants including the venerable Bhosle, Tatos and Café Real, where Goans used to go for breakfast and tea. He even ordered the shutting down of all the gaddos at Miramar beach and elsewhere, including the Bhaiya Pav Bhaji who was then near National Theater Panjim.
At that time Tara and I were at a function at the O’Coqueiro restaurant in Porvorim when someone mentioned that even while Panjim was battling dengue, Parrikar continued to eat at a road side gaddo near Alankar Cinema in Mapusa. We decided to catch him in the act and drove down to Alankar Cinema to see if the chief minister was indeed there. The story was that after working late, Parrikar would arrive to have ros omelette for dinner at the Alankar road side gaddo before going to his house at Mapusa. He never stayed the night at the official chief minister’s bungalow. We just missed him but his favourite gaddo owner boasted about how he waited every night for the chief minister before packing up.
Tara who used to write occasionally for the Herald wrote a story titled “Is this where the chief minister of Goa dines?” The very next morning at 6:30 am I got a call from Parrikar. “What you have published is total lies. I never go to eat at Alankar Cinema”. I protested that we had gone there the previous night and the owner of the gaddo said he was his regular customer. I gave the phone to Tara who asked Parrikar why he was lying about going to the gaddo. She told him that we had pictures of him at the gaddo taken by the gaddo owner. On hearing this Parrikar admitted that he went to the gaddo, but only to drink coconut water.
We continued to be friends and used to meet quite often. Many of the meetings were supposed to be secret. Never in the secretariat or the Chief Ministers office. His favourite place to meet people privately was the guest house of the factories and boilers office at Altinho or the Mandovi hotel. There were of course other places like the government guest house also in Altinho.
At parties he always rushed to me the moment I entered. Not only out of love and affection. But because he was going through the phase of having given up smoking or at least had given up buying cigarettes and only smoked borrowed cigarettes. He knew I was chain smoker and would carry some. I do not know what caused his pancreatic cancer. But smoking and any form of tobacco as his former friend Dr Shekar Salkar used to insist, was always a major contributory factor.
Dr Shekar Salkar who headed the tobacco eradication movement in Goa as president of the National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication (NOTE), was determined to achieve his lifetime ambition to persuade Parrikar and me to give up smoking. I gave up smoking after a cardiac episode about five years ago. Parrikar continued to smoke until he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year ago. When he did give up smoking he jumped from the frying pan into the fire. He started chewing tobacco which is much more dangerous than smoking. He was so addicted that he carried pouches of tobacco with him 24/7. As has been revealed he was also addicted to tandoori fish and black tea. I do not know whether they have any role to play in his getting pancreatic cancer. He valued tandoori fish more than even the job of defence minister of India. When he was defence minister he took a group of reporters to Delhi and gave them dinner in the naval officers mess. Raiturkar, a senior correspondent of the Navhind Times remembers his remark that unfortunately he could not offer them fish curry-rice.
My complete break up with Parrikar came around 2007. An election was around the corner. There was a bitter war of words between Manohar Parrikar and the then leader of the Opposition Luizinho Faleiro. Parrikar had brought out a white paper in which he accused Faleiro of looting and plundering the EDC. In retaliation, Faleiro produced his own white paper in which he accused Parrikar of favouring his brother-in-law in extending a one-time settlement to a pharma company called Simchem Private Limited. Parrikar was furious. The Chief Minister sent a legal notice to the editors and publishers of every newspaper in the State telling them not to carry any reports on his family and what was more shocking — banning the press from reporting the statements of Leader of the Opposition Luizinho Faleiro.
This was the first time in the history of Goa that something like this had happened. I compared Parrikar to the notorious Portuguese dictator Salazar. I had my own problems within Herald to get it published as Parrikar had put pressure on my publisher. Despite which I managed to publish my strong protest against the stifling of democracy by the chief minister. This marked virtually a complete break in our relationship. This was also one of the reasons why I left the Herald as they were not willing to carry even a news item and I had to fight very hard to get it published. Subsequently of course the entire media joined the protest and the legal notice, ironically served by Narendra Sawaikar, who is now the North Goa Member of Parliament, was withdrawn.
Parrikar and I did not meet at all in the last few years. My last meeting must have been during the 2012 election. Right from the beginning he boycotted the Goan Observer and tried his best to kill it. Not only were we denied government ads, even private parties who gave us ads were harassed. When we got the occasional ads due to friends in the Cabinet and bureaucracy, we never got the payment. I am not only talking about the last few years when all payments have been delayed because the Finance Minister has not been able to sign the bills. Like the IFFI advertisement bills which are pending since December. I hope as a mark of respect to the late Manohar Parrikar, new Chief Minister Pramod Sawant will clear the bills of all contractors and newspapers immediately to restore confidence in the government. The Finance Ministry and other portfolios held by Manohar Parrikar must come out of ICU. Now that we have a young, healthy, active, energetic chief minister we should go back to governance.
Manohar Parrikar came to power on the promise of good governance. Unfortunately, the BJP on its own never could get a majority. So it had to rely on chors like Babush and Mickey and the Dhavalikars for surviving in office. It is well known that Manohar Parrikar was forced to collaborate with some of the most corrupt elements in Goan politics, which is why young Pramod Sawant has a challenge and an opportunity.
Let him scrap the amendment to the Town & Country Planning Act. Let him scrap the ODPs of Panjim, Margao and Taleigao which are worse than the RP2011. Let him drive the casinos out to the Mandovi River to Mopa or even across the state border to Sindhudurg. Let him undo the damage that Parrikar had done, perhaps under the compulsion of coalition politics.
Parrikar was a good man blinded by ambition. And we still do not know about the “stolen” Rafale papers. Were they with Parrikar? Did Amit Shah and Modi rush to Goa because they were worried that they would be exposed? Has Parrikar handed over the papers to Atmaram Nadkarni who was the last to meet him before he died on Sunday evening? Being a lawyer and possibly Parrikar’s closest friend, this seems likely. No leader of the BJP or the alliance was allowed to meet him except Atmaram when Parrikar was sinking. For the sake of Parrikar’s reputation Atmaram should make the papers public so that it is made clear that the late Manohar Parrikar was not part of the Rafale deal between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then French President Hollande.
Parrikar was a good man. He was a talented and sincere in his own way. But first and foremost he was an RSS pracharak. As Subhash Velingkar had revealed in his article in the Times of India, Parrikar headed the delegation of 700 karsevaks including his own mother to Ayodhya to demolish the Babri Masjid.
Farewell my friend, you meant well but were blinded by your ambition and your ideology!