In the state elections held in December 1994 Manohar Parrikar from the Panaji constituency from the BJP party and I from the Calangute constituency from the Congress party were elected as MLAs for the first time to the Goa Legislative Assembly.Congress party formed the government and I was elected as the Speaker of Goa Legislative Assembly. Parrikar was leading a four-member group of BJP MLAs in the Assembly. It was at that time that I came to know Manohar Parrikar.
There was an interesting incident that happened during the first IFFI in Goa. The government had advertised about Goan cultural programmes to be held at the open-air auditorium at Kala Academy and different parts of Goa. When I went through the schedule, I found that cultural programmes from the minority community were not given any representation. I issued a press note and local papers highlighted the contents. That morning Parrikar phoned me and asked me what was my problem. When I explained it to him, he requested me to come to his office at 10 a.m. When I went there I noticed that the entire organising committee for the cultural programme was present. When I put my views before the committee in the presence of the chief minister, he agreed with my views and directed the committee to include programmes from the minority community. It is only then that Goan tiatrs and musical shows were included in the programme.
On the occasion of the first IFFI, the government felicitated artistes from different cultural fields of Goa. There were hardly any tiatr artistes included in the selected list. When I pointed this out to him, he immediately asked me to suggest names of tiatr artistes to be felicitated. I suggested 25 names and he accommodated all of them.
At that moment Parrikar said to me in Konkani, which translates to: “Do we know that one of the slippers that we use wears out more than the other? Yes! Why does it happen? Because it gets more pressure! Are we aware that we are putting more pressure on that particular slipper? No! Tomazinho, this is exactly what has happened to me in this case. It has happened without my being aware of it. I tell you, let’s rectify the mistakes now and we shall organise IFFI in a better way next year.”
When Parrikar became the chief minister of Goa for the third time in 2012, some tiatr artistes were very critical of his government as well as some of his ministers. They criticised the government and some ministers through their songs. The affected ministers pressurised Parrikar to censor tiatrs. One day Parrikar called me to his office to discuss this matter. I told him that in a democracy, instead of the government censoring tiatrs which is against the principles of freedom of expression, tiatr artistes should exercise restraint while criticising the government and its ministers. In spite of pressure from some ministers, Parrikar did not bring censorship on tiatrs.
He had a soft spot for Konkani in Roman script too. The lovers of Konkani in Roman script wanted an amendment to the Goa Official Language Act to bring Konkani in Roman script on par with Konkani in Devanagari script. We were soliciting support for our move from all MLAs. That time Parrikar was the Opposition leader in the Legislative Assembly of Goa. When we went to him, after much discussion he proposed: “Let the Congress party table the bill in the assembly. We, meaning BJP, will walk out at the time of voting and the bill can be passed.” However the Congress party nor any of its MLAs were ready to bring that bill.
Dalgado Konknni Akademy (DKA) is an institution which works for the development of Konkani in Roman Script. When Parrikar became the chief minister in 2012, the then Benaulim MLA Caitu Silva and president of DKA Premanand Lotlikar approached him to provide an office space for DKA. Parrikar assured to provide an office and in January 2014 inaugurated a modern office for DKA in the old Education Building in Panaji.
It’s a fact that whenever we went to him to get our issues solved, although the solution of those issues was not politically beneficial to him and his party, he tried to arrive at a solution which was acceptable to us. May his soul rest in peace!