Nandkumar M Kamat
THE good news is that Manohar Parrikar, 62, is out of danger and is recovering fast. He may appear weak, but his energy and stamina is same and mind – sharp and alert. He has demonstrated the fighting spirit of soldiers at Siachen – world’s ultra-cold and highest battlefield. For common people in Goa having a CM around, visible everyday like morning Sun, available and accessible someway means the proof of governance. People have suffered immensely during the past three months. It is total mess on water and power supply front. Now they are apprehensive that a “China wall” would come around the CM keeping him at a distance from common people on health grounds. An insulated CM is not people’s idea of good governance. This is the most challenging and critical phase of Manohar Parrikar’s political career and he is entitled to certain exemptions because the nation has extracted a price from him for having served as Defence Minister. For Manohar Parrikar, Mandovi and Zuari are as sacred as Ganges and Yamuna and tambdi bhaji, tallyanche sukem and the crisp Goan ‘undo’ superior to dal makhani, tikka and parantha – staple food of Delhi.
Manohar Parrikar of November 2014, radiant, cheerful and in robust health, with spring in his steps and strides and speech with emphasis delivered in strong voice was different than what Goa saw of him in February 2018. Medical world knows that even in most healthy persons how stress triggers pancreatic malfunctioning. Genes which you never know exist in body become hyperactive with these stressors and make even the healthiest person very sick without previous medical history. But the picture is not that simple. It is for the central intelligence agencies to secretly and minutely probe the possibility or hypothesis of a subtle clandestine bioterrorist (microbial or biochemical) attack on the former Defence Minister by retracing every event before he suddenly showed the symptoms of pancreatitis because India is a naïve country.
After ‘surgical strike’, Parrikar is on top of hit lists of many terrorist organisations. Bullets and bombs are now getting replaced by biological agents. If this plausible hypothesis is dismissed then the only reason for deterioration of his health during 2016-18 could be the immense stress (numerous meetings, briefings, inspections, nationwide and international travel, long parliamentary session) he had to undergo as Defence Minister. Internationally known and admired as a person with simple habits and genetic affinity for patal bhaji, Goan fish curry and rice his temperament was unfit for the polluted environment of New Delhi. He paid a heavy personal price for obliging the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a person eight years junior to him in politics but who counted on him at the time of need.
Having known background of his illness aggravated by the New Delhi-based job, Prime Minister Narendra Modi must be silently wondering whether it was right on his part to induct him in cabinet at fourth rank. Parrikar, a patriot and darling of RSS Nagpur leadership, once viewed as future PM candidate never complained, followed a no nonsense, hawkish defense strategy, developed special bond with army and left a permanent mark as a hard-working defence minister greatly feared by the enemies of the nation and admired by both USA and Russia for his fine technical acumen.
Much against the desire of his countless genuine well-wishers who care more about his health than his party, position, power or politics, Parrikar returned to Goa. He would have chosen to stay a little longer for the advanced medical treatment, but he must have weighed all the options and perhaps decided that the political compulsions and commitments are more important than his convictions about own physical wellbeing. Those who have not been able to defeat him politically, openly or secretly wished that he would retire from politics on health grounds. But his diehard, recalcitrant spirit is unmatched in political history of Goa. He had suffered several jolts in personal and political life. He lost his wife at an early stage of his life and those who began to pounce on him after his sickness understand very little -like what it means to be a widower and a single parent. Those who were spreading rumours when he was diagnosed with pancreatic ailment never asked who cared for him and his sons or the immense pains he had to take to run a house without a homemaker. After his wife expired he had none in his life to share his innermost thoughts and anxieties. The unexpected exit of his right hand Margao MLA Digambar Kamat was second jolt he faced in life followed by the shocking and sad demise of Matanhy Saldanha within days of his coming to power with majority.
Since 2002 he was appealing to voters for full majority to rule but people decided to wait, watch and scrutinise him. They took 10 years to make up their minds to give him a mandate as CM. The 2012 victory was victory of only Manohar Parrikar alone and not of BJP. And that’s the reason Manohar Parrikar is now back from USA – wearing the thorny crown of physical pain and carrying that invisible cross of commitments on his tired shoulders. Manohar Parrikar is back because the PM didn’t permit him to complete his full five years mandate (2012-17) as CM. He is back because he has promises to keep. He knows that he is leading a strange alliance and it is his leadership, his physical presence that is the glue which cements the alliance partners. He has unfinished agenda from previous mandate – things which he couldn’t do after shifting to New Delhi. He was never afraid of challenges, so he knows how to put the economy on sound footing again provided the opposition too acts with some responsibility on issues like mining and unemployment.
Very sincerely Congress legislature party had co-operated with him for curtailing assembly session, with genuine goodwill towards his wellbeing. He needs to sportingly reciprocate it by paying attention to the neglected constituencies of opposition MLAs. Parrikar is back more determined to prove that he is a born leader and would like his action this time speak louder than his words. He would have tears in his eyes if he sees how simple folks of Goa who have never met him care and pray for his health.