Parrikar’s ‘legacy’ rises from the ashes for Goa’s opposition parties

Reviled and criticised when he was alive for his “dictatorial tendencies” and malgovernance, former Goa Chief Minister late Manohar Parrikar and his ‘legacy of development’ appears to have emerged as a rallying point for opposition parties in the state in the run up to the 2022 assembly polls.

After regional opposition politicians, like former deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai, former Revenue Minister Rohan Khaunte and even Parrikar’s son Utpal, have slammed incumbent CM Pramod Sawant of shunning the former Defence Minister’s political legacy, Delhi deputy Chief Minister and senior Aam Aadmi Party leader Manish Sisodia has now raised a similar pitch, urging disgruntled BJP leaders to quit BJP and join the AAP to further Parrikar’s “development vision”.

“There are people in the BJP who feel that after the BJP, after Parrikar, has buried his vision and forgotten about it. It (vision) is in fact being insulted. Parrikar on a personal level was able to bring Goa on the course of development.

Now they (BJP leaders) have no time to do anything, other than buying MLAs,” Sisodia said during a media interaction on Monday. On Sunday, the AAP leader who is in Goa to oversee the party’s organisational affairs had made a similar pitch to BJP leaders, using Parrikar’s legacy as bait.

Parrikar, Goa’s tallest political leader, died in office in 2019. While the former Defence Minister belonged to the influential Gaud Saraswat Brahmin (GSB) caste, his death has created a vacuum among the upper class Hindu caste grouping, which opposition parties have been trying to tap into.

There is no GSB leader of political significance in the treasury benches in the current legislative apparatus.

And even with the assembly polls, less than a year away, the political opposition is split into small squabbling groups, with no clear leader in the pack to take on the ruling BJP.

Khaunte and Sardesai, both of whom belong to the GSB caste grouping, first levelled the charge of destroying Parrikar’s legacy after Sawant, days after coming to power, sacked top political and government functionaries considered close to Parrikar, from prime positions, in a bid to put his seal on the new power structure post his predecessor’s demise.

Even Parrikar’s son, Utpal, was denied a ticket to contest the Panaji legislative assembly bypoll (after his father’s death) after hectic lobbying by the state BJP unit. Utpal later said that the Goa BJP had strayed from the political path laid out by Parrikar.

While Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Monday, questioned the legitimacy of Sisodia’s laying claim to Parrikar’s legacy, by arguing that Manohar Parrikar is “our leader”, the Delhi dy. Chief Minister went on a virtual Parrikar ‘legacy tour’ in the state capital.

Sisodia offered his prayers to the Mahalaxmi deity in Panaji, a temple which Parrikar invariably frequented ahead of his election campaign, the AAP leader also stopped for a snack at Cafe Bhonsle, Parrikar’s favourite cafe in Panaji. Later, Sisodia also offered homage at Parrikar’s samadhi, which is under construction in the state capital.

According to BJP spokesperson Urfan Mulla, AAP is trying to fool the people of Goa by regularly invoking Parrikar.

“AAP knows that the Arvind Kejriwal model of Delhi will not work in Goa. Nobody trusts AAP here. That is why they are using Parrikar’s name to invoke sympathy of local Goans,” Mulla said, adding that the party will not win a single seat in the state.

Congress spokesperson Trajano D’Mello, the AAP’s Parrikar chant exposes the party’s frustration at not being able to come close to power, despite contesting assembly elections in Goa — the party has not been able to win a single seat in the coastal state.

“Sisodia’s appeal to Parrikar supporters in particular and with a promise to continue with Parrikar legacy exposes AAP’s frustration of wanting to come to power at any cost. Parrikar’s legacy in Goa has proved a disaster,” he said.