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The Parrikar Report Card

Goa Streets gives Manohar Parrikar a B Minus

Garbage is still strewn about all over Goa’s roads and highways. Anyone who thinks corruption is significantly down is fooling themselves. Economic growth has slowed. Even civil harmony has taken a beating, ed what with the recent taxi-related violence.

On the other hand, plans are well underway to control the garbage scourge, with high-tech waste plants using German technology on the way. Roads are being widened and bridges built. Popular schemes to help the poor have given many Goans a renewed sense of security.  And the fact that Goa’s economy is growing at all in the face of an 18-month-old ban on iron ore mining (long the state’s highest revenue earner) can be seen as a political accomplishment.

For all these reasons, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar gets neither an ‘A’ nor an ‘F’ for his performance since coming to office two years ago last Sunday. According to our assessment, based on ground realities and interviews with a cross section of Goans, the chief minister deserves something akin to a B Minus. His administration to date is far from stunningly successful. But it’s not exactly a disaster either.

Noted analyst Prabhakar Timble, a former senior bureaucrat, says, “Two years have already passed after the new government took over the reins and the vibrancy normally associated with anything new is fading with every passing day. The business and trade organizations find no positive change in any processes which could be called as investor friendly.”

Parrikar’s Facebook page, though, has been full of congratulatory messages, including this one from Jose Santana Dsouza, “The reality is that in the Goa cabinet you are the right man. Even Rane as CM didn’t do anything for Goa. In Assembly as opposition leader or in ruling party as Chief Minister I have seen you were talking sense.”

It has been an action-packed two years, with wild swings in fortune for the CM and his cabinet colleagues and supporting legislators. Among the biggest achievements of the government is that it has survived – against the odds, and still looks firm in the saddle despite being hit by one crisis after another.

This Parrikar has done by stitching up a rainbow coalition of BJP members, independents and the two regional parties which are represented in the state assembly, the Goa Vikas Party and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party. This has effectively meant that he has the support of nearly 30 members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) in a house of 40. Of course, that coalition at times falls into disarray with conflicting demands, but it is to Parrikar’s credit that he has been able to douse every fire with some skillful juggling of developmental projects.

Critics, though, take a dim view. Says advocate-activist Aires Rodrigues, “Parrikar’s one remarkable achievement is of having stifled the entire voice of the opposition. Through his trademark tactics he has successfully leashed and grounded most MLAs. Most of the otherwise vocal and proactive NGOs have also gone comatose.”

Yet one Goan resident, a man from St Estevam named Pundalik, thinks the chief minister has been quite successful in winning over the ‘common man,” because of his various popular schemes. There’s the famous ‘Ladli Laxmi’ scheme which gives brides-to-be Rs one lakh at the time of their marriage. Then there’s the ‘Griha Adhar’ scheme which gives housewifes Rs 1,000 every month. Another highly popular initiative is the Dayanand Social Security Scheme doubling payouts to senior citizens. And Parrikar won many hearts by removing the VAT on petrol.

“All these schemes,” says Pundalik, “will help the BJP win the coming elections.”

The other area in which Parrikar has scored is in development of infrastructure, the biggest achievement being the creation of the Lusofonia Games stadia and facilities in record time. He has also built bridges such as the one at Calvim and completed bridges across the Tiracol and Sal River as part of upgrading the state’s infrastructure.

His two-year-old government though has had to navigate its way through quite a few crises, starting with the untimely death of his colleague and trusted confidant Matanhy Saldanha within a month of the new government being formed. It was Matanhy who had played a crucial role in brokering the rainbow-coalition which had brought Parrikar to power.

The biggest crisis was the stoppage of mining in September 2012, barely six months into his term. When in opposition during the Digambar Kamat-led government, Parrikar had spoken out against illegal mining. Then, when he came to power, he attempted to streamline the mining operations by first shutting them down, promising to restart them once all the papers were found to be in order.

Unfortunately for him, he got caught in a battle of wits with the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, and within a few days of Parrikar stopping mining, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests withdrew all the environmental clearances issued to the mines in Goa. That meant that even if Parrikar withdrew the Goa government’s suspension order, the mines couldn’t restart.

To make matters worse, the Supreme Court in October 2012 also banned all mining activities.

Says AAP south Goa Lok Sabha candidate Swati Kerkar, “There has been no effort by Parrikar to recover any of the Rs 35,000-cr illegally earned by mining companies extracting ore outside lease areas.” The denial of illegal mining by Parrikar led to the opposition dubbing him ‘master of U-turns’ because of his volte-face on a number of issues.

During the elections in 2012, the BJP had proposed a ‘Goa Vision Document 2012-2017’ with a number of promises. It said a new Regional Plan would be drawn up, though the document has yet to materialize. Another major U-turn was on the matter of the Medium of Instruction policy. While Parrikar had earlier rooted for the regional languages, he then switched to supporting the English medium schools.

His other major promise was to make governance corruption-free, to bring about a ‘parivartan’ (change) in the administration. However, that seems to have gone pretty much nowhere. Unlike in the case of his predecessor, though, there’s little evidence that the CM himself is tainted. The most embarrassing incident was the collapse of the Ruby Residency in Palolem which took the lives of more than 30 people. More than two months after the tragedy the builders are yet to be traced by the police.

The opposition has also highlighted the failure to solve some major crimes and the bias in police investigations when it’s a crime involving a person opposed to the BJP, as in the case of Tarun Tejpal.

Parrikar recently stated that Goa’s growth in Goa’s gross domestic product is expected to be around 8 percent for 2012-2013, down from around 22 percent the previous year – a reduction largely due to the mining ban. Bankers, industrialists, economists and others believe those figures to be inflated, but the bottom line is that growth is being maintained despite the ban – no small feat under the circumstances.