Goan Catholic is culturally Hindu: Parrikar

NEW YORK TIMES, PANAJI | 05 September 2013 14:04 IST

Pollsters and analysts have been talking about the increasing chances of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) emerging as the single largest party in India’s 2014 national elections, but falling short of the total number of parliamentary seats needed to form a government.

The B.J.P.’s de-facto prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is controversial and unacceptable to many of India’s regional parties, whose support will be crucial to the B.J.P. in forming the next government. Even within the B.J.P. several leaders have been harboring the ambition to replace Mr. Modi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate. Among them is Manohar Parrikar, the B.J.P. chief minister of the coastal state of Goa.

Mr. Parrikar is an affable face of the Hindu right and leader of India’s most prosperous state by per capita income, which is also home to an influential Catholic minority and their distinct history. Mr. Parrikar has vocally supported Mr. Modi but also describes the 2002 Gujarat riots as the “blot on Modi’s career.”

The 57-year old Mr. Parrikar is a graduate of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology and has impressed middle-class Indians by taking economy-class flights, by hailing a taxi himself at the airport, and with clean governance in his state, when political excess and corruption are commonplace.

Mr. Parrikar recently spoke to India Ink in Panjim, the state capital of Goa.


Are you a potential prime minister candidate for the B.J.P. if enough coalition partners do not back your current leader, Mr. Narendra Modi, after the 2014 general elections? Polls suggest the B.J.P. will need allies, and may have to sacrifice Mr. Modi after the elections.


No, not at all, I am not a candidate. And I don’t think the current opinion polls are accurate. It’s too early for the polls – voter behavior has not polarized yet, the campaign has not started. But there is a 5 to 6 percent vote swing in favor of the B.J.P. and if you map our party’s demographic, then we have the possibility of winning in 330 to 340 seats [above the 272 majority mark, and enough to ensure Mr. Modi as prime minister].


Is the B.J.P. placing all bets on this unprecedented sweep, though your best performance to date is 183 seats, in 1999? Does your party not have a Plan B?


The Plan B, if there is one, need not be discussed when we are trying our best to win with our Plan A. A smart operator always has an exit policy, but that exit policy is not discussed in advance, never. It has to be an inside affair of the party.


But by projecting Mr. Modi as your leader, are you not turning off many voters who do not identify with a right-wing hardliner?


Today the scenario in the country is a [Congress party-led] regime that is not delivering, a regime where the prime minister [Manmohan Singh] is seen as a lame duck. The government has to be pragmatic and get things done, but this government is incapable of doing it, it’s in a perpetual state of suspension. In these circumstances, particularly young people see an alternative model in Modi, and if they want him as prime minister they will have to elect his local representative. Also, a substantial number of businessmen are likely to back the B.J.P. this time, and they will also go for Modi. I believe a national mood is forming to put the B.J.P. in power and Modi as prime minister.


You have said the 2002 Gujarat riots under Mr. Modi were an administrative failure. Should he apologize for this lapse that resulted in so many deaths, as his critics suggest?


Administrative failure does not mean everything is blamed on one man, Narendra Modi. What happened then was unfortunate, but that does not require his apology, it requires his correction and he has done that. There were many reasons why people lost control in 2002 after the dead bodies [of Hindu pilgrims from an earlier attack] were shown on TV. It should not have happened, the administration should have clamped down on any violence, [If I were in his place] I would have ensured…but Modi was new to the job as chief minister. It was a blot on Modi’s career, but he was not personally a part of it. If he is guilty by connivance he should be punished, but investigations have given him a clean chit. People who oppose him do so because they fear him.


You are seen as the moderate face of the Hindu right, but where do you see yourself ideologically? Are you a Hindu nationalist?


I am a 100 percent democrat, democracy is at my heart. I am a perfect Hindu, but that is my personal faith, it has nothing to do with government. India is a Hindu nation in the cultural sense [Hindus are 82 percent of the population]. A Catholic in Goa is also Hindu culturally, because his practices don’t match with Catholics in Brazil [a former Portuguese outpost like Goa]; except in the religious aspect, a Goan Catholic’s way of thinking and practice matches a Hindu’s. So Hindu for me is not a religious term, it is cultural. I am not the Hindu nationalist as understood by some TV media – not one who will take out a sword and kill a Muslim. According to me that is not Hindu behavior at all. Hindus don’t attack anyone, they only do so for self-defense — that is our history. But in the right sense of the term, I am a Hindu nationalist.


Turning to Goa’s economy, about a quarter of the state’s population is dependent on mining, which was banned by the Supreme Court last year to stop illegal extraction. Have you been able to clean up the system?


I have started. We are recovering some money that was not paid, and we are filing court cases against the guilty. But the blanket mining ban is hurting us – the court may be right in its perspective, but why can’t it find a solution for so long? Judges like to say justice delayed is justice denied: and here I am with 25 percent of my revenues gone, 25 percent of my people almost on the roads, and the court is not hearing me. There is nothing more criminal than that.


With mining revenues gone, you will be hoping that tourism can cover the shortfall this year. But safety for women is now a big concern for tourists to India.


I don’t think we have that problem in Goa. Rapes happen elsewhere too, but there has to be quick reaction. In the 17 months of my regime, there is not a single instance where the police has failed to register a case in these matters, against an Indian or foreigner. There has been only one case of rape against a foreigner in my tenure, and we caught the culprit in three hours.

(The interview has been lightly edited and condensed.)

Sambuddha Mitra Mustafi is a Fulbright scholar, media entrepreneur and freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter @some_buddha

Original Report

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Previous Comments

God gave Moses The Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai for Christians “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me, Thou Shalt Not Make Unto Thee Any Graven Image, Thou Shalt Not Take The Name Of The Lord Thy God In Vain”.

- John Ferns, Goa | 07 th September 2013 19:40


Prabhakar Timble can you define secularism? Do you think church in Goa is Secular, what about diococean, how come they can discriminate against other religions openly when appointing principal/headmasters at their educational institutions. Is it in the spirit of your secularism?

- Anirudh, Goa | 07 th September 2013 07:18



- JOSE ROD, GOA | 06 th September 2013 14:10


Goan Catholic is CULTURALLY GOAN, as a Hindu Goan is. Exceptions exist in all religions and communities. The concern is that Hindu fanaticism is gaining strength in Goa which is not a cultural trait. Goan Catholics should not follow such Hindu footsteps.

There can be no better word for "nationalist" than a "secularist". Only secular can be nationalist. Nationalism is not just showing love to the borders and frontiers of the nation. It involves love, respect, tolerance to those who reside within the boundaries. Love for nation is love for all the people who form the part of the nation. Love is inclusive not exclusive; love assimilates diversity and love celebrates the lifestyles of all communities----majority, minority and the marginalised.

- Prabhakar Timble, Margao | 06 th September 2013 10:01


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