SHOCK: To everyone’s surprise Narendra Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister of India setting aside senior leaders like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Sushma Swaraj.
By Rajan Narayan
The late Manohar Parrikar was primarily responsible for facilitating the prime ministership of Narendra Modi.
I FIRST met Manohar Parrikar when he was a MLA in the late 90s. A colleague of mine at the Herald, Julio D’Silva, had become his very close friend. In the early days of his political career Parrikar cultivated the press. He would drop in at the Press Club every often and chat with journalists. He projected himself as a moderate like Atal Behari Vajpayee. May be he considered Vajpayee as his role model and later named his dream bridge in Goa — Atal Sethu.
One day, Julio who was then my chief reporter, bought Manohar Parrikar to my small office cabin. We had a long chat on the development of Goa. Thereafter we met several times. I did not anticipate that the three-member BJP party would topple the Francisco Sardinha government, after extending support to him to topple the Luizinho Falerio government.
This was my first insight into Manohar Parrikar’s ruthless mind. Clearly he would do anything to achieve power. Parrikar was aware that as a coalition government with the Congress MLAs exceeding the BJP MLAs, the government would not last. So he dissolved the assembly in 2003 and called for President’s rule. This suited him at that time when Atal Behar Vajpayee was the prime minister and the governor a BJP nominee. But a BJP nominee who was very straight forward, Lt General Jacob, was amongst the best governors Goa has ever had. It was he who notified the Mhadai and Netravali sanctuaries.
IN the elections that followed the BJP managed to secure 18 seats but still fell short of the majority of 21 required to form the government in the 40-member assembly. This is where Parrikar made the greatest blunder. He sought the help of three MLAs, namely Pandurang Madkaikar of Cumberjua, the Santa Cruz MLA Agnelo Fernandes and the Poinguim MLA Isidore Fernandes. With the support of a couple of Independents, in addition to the Atanasio Babush Monserrate gang, Manohar Parrikar the chief minister of Goa for the second time. But this time around he remained in the saddle for almost five years.
MANOHAR Parrikar had the support of the Saraswat Brahmin community which made up a large part of the population of Panaji. He also had the support surprisingly of the Catholic community. As chief minister, Manohar Parrikar worked very hard but he was a total dictator. He ruled the state with an iron hand. He completed almost his full term from October 24, 2000 to March 2, 2005.
There was a revolt against him towards the end of his first tenure as chief minister. Parrikar again demonstrated that he had no respect for democracy. Parrikar is alleged to have directed the BJP office bearers to claim that Filipe Neri of Velim, a Congress MLA, was primarily a member of the BJP party. Filipe was literally dragged out of the assembly by the marshals in the assembly. Later it was proved that Neri’s signature was forged. None of this worked and the mortal blow was the defection of Digambar Kamat. Kamat who had been asked to keep a watch on the BJP MLAs sent to Gujarat ahead of the confidence motion in the assembly.
I remember that my wife Tara and I were eating dosa at the then bungalow of Arvind Bhatikar in Margao along with Auduth Timblo. Businessman Datta Damodar Naik was standing below at Digambar’s house since he had received news that Parrikar was coming to visit Digambar. Parrikar tried to persuade Digambar to stay back in the party. But Digambar was adamant about joining Congress.
After Digambar left the entire procession of Auduth Timblo and Datta Naik went to the Ramada hotel where Magaret Alva and Churchill Alemao were waiting to embrace Digambar Kamat. With Digambar defecting the Parrikar government collapsed. And Pratapsingh Rane took over as chief minister for one month. After this general elections were held.
IN the general elections the Congress got the largest number of seats and with the help of Independents and the MGP formed the government. Digambar’s Congress government completed its full term of five years. Digambar was very democratic unlike the dictatorial Parrikar; when there was a protest against Regional Plan 11 drawn up by Babush Monserrate, Digambar scrapped the regional plan. The Town & Country Planning portfolio was the price that Parrikar had to pay for Monserratae’s support.
Digambar also cancelled the allotments under the Special Export Zones (SEZ), which had been made largely to builders. Digambar earned the reputation of being a chief minister who was accessible to the people. When he was holding the power portfolio anyone could ring him up on his mobile at any time. Digambar answered the mobile himself and took prompt action. I know because I rang up Digambar at 3am in the morning about power supply breaking down.
COMING back to Manohar Parrikar immediately after he had became chief minister in February 2000, he had dropped in at my basement flat in Dona Paula after the swearing in to seek my support. Later on in 2003 he invited Tara and me for dinner at the “Palki” restaurant, which is the private dining room at the International Centre Goa. The only other person present beside Parrikar was his younger son who accompanied his papa everywhere.
Unfortunately, Parrikar lost his wife even before he became MLA. Both times over dinner at the ICG’s private restaurant we discussed what should be done for the development of Goa. Later on to our shock the bills for the two dinners were sent to us by the caterer managing the restaurant — though we were guests of Manohar Parrikar. When queried Manohar’s explanation was that since the International Centre Goa wanted a grant of Rs5 crore from the government he did not think they would be presenting a bill for the dinners.
MY FIRST major difference or quarrel with Manohar Parrikar took place over the outbreak of dengue in the heart of Panaji. The water and sewage pipelines of Neptune hotel had got mixed up and it was all over the media. The entire area including Dona Paula where were residing started getting sewage-contaminated water in their taps instead of potable water. Parrikar promptly shut down all the restaurants including the popular Bhosle, Tato, Café Real, Delhi Darbar, etc. He also shut down all the gaddos at Miramar beach.
It so happened that we were at a party at the O’Coqueiro restaurant at Porvorim one evening. During the course of the evening we heard that the chief minister was fond of having dinner late at night and even after midnight at the collection of filthy gaddos outside the Alankar cinema in Mapusa. We decided to go and check at Alankar and the gaddo vendors pointed to Parrikar’s favorite gaddo owner and said he was still waiting late in case Parrikar came to catch a ross omlet or something else before heading home for the night.
We didn’t hang around outside Alankar till midnight to see if Parrikar would turn up or not but a few days later, Tara had written an anchor piece in the Herald titled “Is this where the chief minister of Goa dines?” The very next morning when the story appeared Parrikar called up at 7am in the morning to deny that he ever went to the Alankar cinema gaddos to eat. Tara told him that his favorite gaddo owner had said he came most nights late to eat ross-omlet. He replied he must have had narial pani sometimes.
Even before I reached the office the same day Parrikar had already called up Herald’s managing director, Raul Fernandes, to say that no article by Tara Narayan should appear in the Herald. This was told to me by my deputy editor Joel Afonso who is now the editor of The Goan. Parrikar could not antagonize the Herald which is the “bible” of the minority community. So we had a secret meeting at the Factories & Boilers office. Whenever Parrikar wanted to meet people privately he chose to meet them at other offices and not at the chief minister’s office. But the truce did not last long. Our relationship came under severe stress soon after this incident.
LEADER of Opposition Luizinho Faleiro had come out with a white paper on how the BJP was looting the Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Faleiro even claimed that the chief minister had written off the interest on the loan taken by his brother-in-law who owned the Simchem factory. Parrikar in turn claimed that Luizinho had looted the EDC by giving loans to power guzzling steel rolling mills against huge kickbacks.
The worst part of it is was when it appeared in the newspapers that the chief minister bestows special favors to his relatives, Parrikar was furious and sent a legal notice to all newspaper offices that if any reports appeared about his family he would take the newspapers to court. The legal notice was drafted by his present BJP MLA Narendra Sawaikar. It warned editors and publishers of all newspapers not to carry any statements of the Leader of Opposition Luizinho Falerio about his family.
So as far back as in 2003 Parrikar’s Modi attitude had already started manifesting itself. After a strong protest from the Goa Union of Journalists Parrikar had to apologize for that legal notice and soon after I quit the Herald because Raul Fernandes made it impossible for me to exercise my own integrity as an editor while he was seeking favors from Manohar Parrikar and wanted me to get him a casino license which I refused to do.
TO Manohar Parrikar goes the credit for voting in Narendara Modi as the BJP prime minister of India. In the first place at the 2002 National Executive Meeting of the BJP held at the Goa Marriot, Parrikar saved Modi from being sacked as chief minister of Gujarat. This was the demand from a large section of the BJP — that Modi should be sacked for turning a blind eye to the post-Godhra riots in 2002 when thousands of Muslims were killed. The then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had publically declared that Modi did not follow Raj Dharma. Which implies that all people should be treated with respect and justice done to them. Modi who had come for the meeting flew back to Gujarat since he felt that he would be asked to resign.
Ironically, it was LK Advani who saved Narendra Modi. Advani requested Vajpayee to give Modi another chance. There was a dinner after the meeting at which I was present. In the middle of dinner Vajpayee, Advani and Parrikar went to a private room and had a discussion. This resulted in Modi being forgiven and retaining his position as chief minister of Gujarat. Even in those days Manohar Parrikar and I were very friendly. Since the security was strict nobody could go to the Marriot during the meeting. Parrikar asked me to take his official car saying that it would not be stopped by anybody.
Again, when Parrikar came back to power in 2012, he supported Modi to become the prime minister. This was despite strong objections from senior leaders like LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi. As a first step Modi was appointed chief spokesperson of the BJP in the 2014 in the parliamentary polls. To everyone’s surprise Modi won by the largest majority ever by any party including the Congress party.
A GRATEFUL MODI
AS A gesture of gratitude Modi invited and even insisted that Manohar Parrikar should come to Delhi to be the defense minister of the country. Though Parrikar was not keen because he said he would miss his Goan xitt-kodi (fish curry) in Delhi. Parrikar’s greatest achievement as defense minister was the surgical strike against Pakistan for killing 19 Indian soldiers. By this time I have a feeling that Parrikar has already been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This is probably the primary reason why he wanted to return to Goa.
Though Parrikar became chief minister on two occasions he did not complete his full term. In his first term in 2002 his government was toppled by defectors led by Digambar Kamat. In his second tenure, he was called to Delhi to become the defense minister. Soon after news filtered in about his illness being serious he went off to Sloane Kettering hospital in New York for treatment. Unfortunately, Parrikar did not live for long after that and passed away on March 17, 2019.
Parrikar’s bold experiment of giving Catholics tickets to contest on the BJP ticket was a master stroke. The first time he did this was in 2012 when all the Catholic candidates won. In the action replay in 2017 ten of the 17 BJP MLAs who won were Catholics. It is unfortunate that the new government headed by Pramod Sawant is against Catholics. The RSS and Narendra Modi are insistent that the whole of India including Goa be declared as Hindutva only.
PARRIKAR & BABUSH
SOMETHING which is a very significant aspect of Parrikar’s rise to power and the BJP forming the government is the collusion between Manohar Parrikar and Babush Monserrate. Though the BJP emerged as the largest single party in the 2001 election it did not get a majority of the seats in the legislative assembly. It is then that he offered Babush Monserrate the gift of the Ministry of Town & Country Planning if he extended support to the BJP. The condition was that Babush would also get the support of three more MLAs who were elected on the Congress ticket.
Babush got the MLAs to resign and got them re-elected on the BJP ticket. This is how the BJP managed to survive for four years. Then there was again a revolt but this time even Babush could not help Parrikar retain power. Ahead of the vote of confidence in the assembly Parrikar had sent his MLAs to Gujarat under the watchful eye of Digambar Kamat. Unfortunately, for him the shepherd himself deserted the flock as already detailed earlier. Again, Parrikar when the BJP unexpectedly formed the government in 2012 still needed the help of Babush Monserrate. He persuaded Babush not to contest against his chamcha Siddharth Kunkolienkar from Panaji. The trade-off was that the police would not pursue the case of alleged rape of a minor filed against Babush Monserrate. Babush realized his ambition of being the Panaji MLA only after the death of Manohar Parrikar, but won the Panjim seat only by a margin of 500 votes against Utpal Parrikar, the son of Manohar Parrikar.
SO the BJP governments are a creation of Babush Monserrate. To that extent the BJP did not have any ideology but only a craving for power. Parrikar in particular was willing to make any compromises to capture power, including for the first time giving Catholics seats in the Salsette constituency to contest on the BJP ticket. A very successful experiment which saw ten Catholic MLAs being elected on the BJP ticket. Even the 17 seats the BJP got in the 2017 elections was thanks to the Catholics.