MUMBAI: Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar passed away on Sunday after battling pancreatic cancer for over a year. He was 63.
Often referred to as a common man’s chief minister because of his unassuming nature, Parikkar was the first IIT alumnus to become a legislator and then a CM.
Adept at managing coalition dynamics, he became indispensable for the BJP in Goa because of its fractured mandate.
The party suffered in Goa when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inducted him as Union defence minister, so he had to be sent back to the state to steer the government to safety.
The Centre will observe national mourning on Monday and the Tricolour will fly at half mast.
In his demise, Parrikar leaves behind a leadership vacuum with the Congress staking its claim to form the new government.
Hours before Parrikar passed away, there was an intense buzz on former Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat defecting to the BJP from the Congress and taking over chief ministership.
While Kamat sought to deflect it, saying he would be committing political suicide if he went back to the BJP, Goa Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo had told news agencies in the afternoon that the possibility of Kamat becoming CM was discussed at the party MLAs’ meet on Saturday night.
An observer of Goa politics said, “Anything is possible in Goa now.”
Amid the flux, six MLAs, including three independents and those of the Goa Forward Party supporting the BJP-led government in the state, sought to identify themselves as a separate group within the state Assembly.
Earlier in the day, Goa BJP chief Vinay Tendulkar had indicated the possibility of poaching, saying some Congress MLAs might switch over soon.
With the effective strength of the Assembly reduced to 36 and the halfway mark at 19, the BJP-led coalition appears safe as of now, since it has 21 on its side [12 + 3 (GFP) + 3 (MGP) + 3 Independents = 21].
GFP leader Vijai Sardesai and MGP chief Sudin Dhavalikar too are in the CM race, according to sources.
The first IIT-ian to be elected an MLA, ailing Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar lost his battle to cancer on Sunday.
An able administrator and an affable politician, the 64-year-old had come to be known as the ‘Common Man’s Chief Minister’.
While speculation had been swirling around Parikkar’s health over the last couple of days, the official confirmation of his demise was made by President Ram Nath Kovind on his official Twitter handle.
“Extremely sorry to hear of the passing of Shri Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa, after an illness borne with fortitude and dignity,” Kovind tweeted.
Hours earlier, the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) in Goa had tweeted that his condition was “extremely critical” and “doctors are trying their best”.
Parrikar had shown signs of recovery in the recent past and had even attended the Budget Session of the state Assembly. However, his condition took a turn for the worse after his blood pressure dropped a few days back. There were speculations that he had slipped into coma.
“He could only respond by opening his eyes,” a senior Goa BJP leader said, explaining Parrikar’s condition since Saturday.
NCP Chief Sharad Pawar and Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik, who had successfully battled cancer in the last few years, praised Parrikar for his brave battle against the disease.
“Parrikar showed exemplary strength through his struggle with the disease. However, it’s sad that he lost the battle in the end,” Naik said.
Pawar remembered Parrikar as a “thoroughly cultured leader”.
Born on December 13, 1955, at Mapusa, Parrikar joined RSS during his school days. After graduating from the IIT-Bombay as a metallurgical engineer in 1978, Parrikar started his own business in Goa. He lost his wife Medha to cancer in 2001.
Known for his simplicity, Parrikar was often referred to as Bhau by commoners.