By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar
When pacing the cold, stone-lined corridors of South Block, former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar famously confessed to fantasising about Goan fish curry over butter chicken, the national capital’s ubiquitous calorific treat.
Back in Goa as Chief Minister, however, Parrikar’s all-too-brief reminiscence on Friday, about his pressure-packed stint in Delhi and his reference to Kashmir, appears to have stirred the political pot in Goa and in Delhi.
During Babasaheb Ambedkar’s 126th birth anniversary celebrations in Panaji, Parrikar, in his inimitable style, reeled off on his tough times in Delhi, his desire to return to Goa and the Kashmir crisis all in one breath, triggering a controversy, one which required the Chief Minister to take to Twitter to deny having linked the prolonged Kashmir crisis to his return to his home state.
This is not Parrikar’s first tryst with controversy over his own comments. And with the combination of his wafer-thin majority government, his over-eager alliance partners already prodding his leadership and Parrikar’s prodigious ability to put his foot-in-the-mouth, proverbially speaking, promises this won’t be his last gaffe.
Goa BJP insiders, however, claim that Parrikar’s stint in Delhi could have taught him to be cautious while dealing with the media, which perhaps can be explained by the Chief Minister choosing to forego the customary weekly post-cabinet media briefing and keeping public interactions to a minimum ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government assumed charge in March.
“The election mandate has not been kind to us. We may have formed a government, but with allies who had been baying for our blood before the elections. It does not make much sense to increase exposure to the media and exposing ourselves to scrutiny just yet,” a senior BJP leader told IANS.
Parrikar’s unprovoked comment on Friday, undermining the importance of discussions, especially with journalists, while pursuing an objective, could perhaps betray the Chief Minister’s current outlook on the media and alternative voices.
“And, I feel, there are some things where discussions should be minimum, but things need to be made to happen. Discussions can be a spoiler… If you want something to happen, do not discuss it too much in the news. When there is a discussion, one person says one thing, while someone else says something else,” Parrikar had said.
Congress leader Girish Chodankar alleges that dictatorial tendencies lie just below Parrikar’s democratic surface and such tendencies slip out every now and then.
“These are the signs of a dictator. One who does not believe in listening to others’ opinions. How can a leader in a democracy say discussions are not important?” Chodankar asked.
Parrikar’s angst against the media could stem from the number of times he was panned in the national media, be it for his dozing at Rajpath during the Republic Day celebrations or nodding off in Parliament while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was responding to one of the most-watched debates in recent times on demonetisation.
Ironic images of Parrikar, then a Defence Minister, holding a large, shimmering snapper while inaugurating a subsidised fish cart in Goa last year, while Modi sealed the multi-billion dollar Rafale jet deal in Paris, or his numerous visits to Goa, especially his presence in the coastal state during the Pathankot terror attack last year, have taken a toll of the urban legends surrounding the 61-year-old IITian, which describe him, sometimes erroneously, as a humble, no-nonsense technocrat, with a skill for clean administration.
Now that Parrikar is back in Goa and within ready reach of his fish curry rice, one thing he would do well to remember, is that the Mandovi river, once famous hunting ground for shevto — Goa’s state fish — is now a breeding ground for offshore casinos; the same casinos which Parrikar once detested and had promised to do away with, way before he moved to butter-chicken land.