Don't cry for me, Goa!


End-November 2004: the 35th edition of the Indian Film Festival of India (IFFI) is for the first time being held in Goa. Sceptics — who are as easy to find as taverns — wonder aloud whether Goa has the infrastructure to host a festival that is already being compared to the one in Cannes, and whether the venue in the capital of Panaji would be ready in time.

Goa was indeed ready. And perhaps for many the showstopper wasn't Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan or Oliver Stone's controversial epic Alexander or Mira Nair's Vanity Fair. Rather, it was Manohar Parrikar in his trademark untucked shirt, loose trousers and sandals.

If the IFFI has become a permanent fixture in Goa — the 45th edition will begin on November 20 — a fair section of Goans will acknowledge (some grudgingly) the efforts of the then chief minister (CM) Parrikar, in his first term between 2000 and 2005.

When he became CM in October 2000, the BJP's first CM, he was looked upon with suspicion by virtually a fourth of Goa's population: the Christians who found it difficult to trust a man seeped in the Hindutva ideology of the RSS. Naturally, Parrikar had to face severe criticism from the Church, too.

By 2012, it was a different story. After the Parrikar-led BJP lost the state elections in 2007, five years later it was back with an absolute majority of 21 in a 40-member House (24 with allies).

And the amazing part: six of his MLAs were Christian. By then the community and the Church were disillusioned with a 'corrupt' Congress and for the grand old party taking them for granted. A 'communal' BJP appeared a better choice.

"Yes, we will miss him," admits writer-turned-politician Vishnu Wagh, who represents a Christian-dominated constituency in north Goa. But he looks at Parrikar's new assignment as a blessing in disguise. "We were over dependent on him. Now we need to behave in a more responsible manner as we have no Parrikar to fall upon," adds Wagh, a firm critic of the former CM on many an occasion.

Siddharth Kunkolienkar, one of his close aides, is disappointed but looks positively at his new assignment. "It's a gain rather than a loss for the party," he says.

The Unfinished Agenda

But the bureaucracy wonders how the state will run without Parrikar at the helm. The finances of Goa are still in a shambles, with the state still not having fully recovered from the setback it received due to total ban on mining activity.

"The ban reduced our revenue directly by 25% and around 15% indirectly. Still, I was running the state for the last 30 months without allowing the common man to feel the pinch," a visibly emotional Parrikar said in a choked voice as he prepared to leave the state.

Before the ban, Goa was used to earning revenues of Rs 1,400 crore a month from mining. The regular monthly expenditure of salaries, pension, social schemes, power purchase and loan payments works out to Rs 400 crore. Parrikar has managed to break even by personally monitoring revenue earnings on a day-to-day basis and getting roughly Rs 410 crore through commercial taxes, excise, non-tax revenues and share of central taxes.

"It has been a hand-to-mouth position from the time mining activity was banned," admits a senior official in the finance ministry. He wonders whether Parrikar's successor would be able to monitor the financials as efficiently.

Parrikar at the Centre also means that there's an unfinished agenda back in Goa. For instance, in its 2012 manifesto, the BJP had promised to scrap the 'Regional Plan' and draw up a new one with "people's participation in a transparent manner". However, not much has happened on that front, and the plan, according to NGOs and village gram sabhas, will encourage illegal buildings and ecological destruction. Parrikar had also promised to arrest mining scamsters, but that too remains a task incomplete.

While his failures in fulfilling the election promises are glaring, Parrikar deserves credit for shielding Goa from a full-blown financial crisis in the wake of the mining ban. The state for which he worked 18 hours a day for the past two decades as leader of the Opposition and also as chief minister will miss him. He will miss Goa, too.

"I will miss my state, my family and the fish," the 59-year-old widower said at a tearful Cabinet briefing on Friday. "I didn't want to go, but the nation comes first." Many back in Goa may be wishing it didn't have to be that way.

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