"Now, if only NaMo would say MaNo before May 26."
By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

Close your eyes and fling an empty beer bottle into any bar or teahouse in Goa, chances are it will either hit someone who loves Manohar Parrikar or loathes him.

It will be tough to find anyone in this sunny, beer-loving paradise who doesn't have an opinion about their 'MaNo'; one of contemporary Goa's most well-known politicians outside Goa and controversial within it.

With everyone, from the national newspapers, to the international media to merry patrons in a Panaji tavern excitedly speculating on the possible elevation of Parrikar to the central cabinet, IANS took an assorted dipstick to know what Goans think would happen in Goa, if and ever the 58-year-old IIT alumnus is 'commandeered' by Narendra Modi for his national agenda.

First up, who replaces Parrikar as chief minister?

If Indira was India and vice versa in the 1970s, the politics in Goa for about two decades has been all about this seemingly maverick Gaud Saraswat Brahmin leader (not necessarily in vice versa though). Neither Congressmen and chief minister for two decades Pratapsing Rane nor five time nor union minister of state Eduardo Faleiro were a patch on Parrikar on this count.

Two names crop up as replacements. Four-time North Goa MP Shripad Naik, who incidentally is also expecting a cabinet berth, and the frequently ill-in-health deputy chief minister Francis D'Souza, one of the party's oldest Catholic faces.

According to Trajano D'Mello, the vice president of the Nationalist Congress Party, Health Minister Laxmikant Parsenkar, could make the cut.

Shripad Naik would be CM. I do not see another alternative, says political commentator and lawyer Cleofato Coutinho.

Others like Manguirish Pai Raikar, a former head of the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), votes for D'Souza. He has the ability to take everybody along. He does not have the arrogance and at the same time also has the administrative ability, Raikar claims.

Opinion is divided on the possible impact on Goa's political scene after Parrikar's exit.

According to human rights consultant Ranjan Solomon, since 2012 Parrikar's government has left the state in disarray with his absence of vision and wishes for a strong regional party, which speaks the language of inclusive growth. Right now, it is rudderless, he claims.

D'Mello argues that with Parrikar out of the way, the opposition would regroup faster.

Armando Gonsalves from Panaji, who has been rooting for a prime ministerial berth for Parrikar, says the ground could be ripe for a tattered Congress to step out of 'minority cushion' and rebuild, and for the Aam Aadmi Party to set base.

When it comes to mining, Parrikar is a quintessential paradox. A man who exposed a mining scam during every assembly session for seven years as opposition leader, when in power, is now being accused of going slow on the very minor barons and politicians who allegedly orchestrated the scam.

Even Gonsalves, who hails from Panaji, Parrikar's constituency, and an overt supporter of the chief minister, says: Parrikar's biggest threat comes from the Greens, and though I believe that MP is not the mining industry's surrogate, he has to toe their line because of big corporate interests. He will have a problem here, because there is a huge surge of sentiment against mining.

The NCP leader wants Parrikar in New Delhi to handle the mining and environment sector in order to solve the mining mess, of which he is the author himself.

According to Solomon, the exit of Parrikar, who has outright rejected setting up of a government corporation to take over the multi-billion dollar mining industry, would help democratisation of the mining industry which is under control of the people.

And in the event Parrikar is elevated, the wishlist of ministerial options his fans and foes put forth include a ministry dealing in infrastructure according to Raikar, considering Parrikar's legacy of building signature infrastructure projects here.

Solomon believes Parrikar is all hype and may get a minor portfolio, but Gonsalves claims home or finance ministry would suit him best.

Now, if only NaMo would say MaNo before May 26.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar is a journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])


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