How The BJP’s Man In Goa, Manohar Parrikar, Went From Kar Sevak To Chief Minister

Pamela D’Mello
Parrikar resigned as defence minister last year so that the BJP could form a government in Goa under his leadership.

On Sunday, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah said that Manohar Parrikar, who is currently being treated for advanced pancreatic cancer, will remain the chief minister of Goa. The opposition Congress had staked claim to power in the 62-year-old's absence, and even the BJP's allies were growing impatient at the delay in finding a "long-term" solution.

While it is not clear when Parrikar will be able to take charge of Goa again, what is evident is that the BJP is struggling to handle its leadership vacuum in the state. This doesn't come as a surprise—after all, Parrikar resigned as defence minister last year so that the BJP could form a government in Goa under his leadership. But how did the IIT Bombay alumnus emerge as the go-to man for a right-wing party in a state that celebrated its acceptance of different cultures? And how has that acceptance changed under his watch?

Ayodhya To Panjim

On a winter afternoon in 1992, Parrikar and three others entered the press room of the Panjim secretariat, which faces the Mandovi river, to recount their experience of travelling as kar sevaks to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Parrikar was mostly silent during that informal press interaction. At the time, Goa was distinctly cocooned from all communal bedlam—minority baiting was unheard of. In a state that was then fiercely proud of its live-and-let-live amity and syncretic culture, it was considered uncultured, uncool and un-Goan to publicly speak of religious differences with anything less than respect.

Twenty six years later, most of those values stand diluted. In 2006, a madrasa was demolished and the houses of Muslims attacked over three days, while 40 accused, including two BJP office bearers, were acquitted by a court for lack of evidence.The Sanatan Sanstha, which was investigated in a bomb blast in Margao in 2009, operates proudly out of its headquarters in the temple taluk of Ponda. Its main political patron Ramkrishna Sudin Dhavalikar, a...

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