Ayurveda practitioner Pramod Sawant steps out of Parrikar shadow

Outside official duty hours, Sawant used to arrange medical check-up camps through his NGO for the poor in various parts of Goa.
Pramod Sawant (R) with other BJP leaders in Panjim on Monday. (Photo | PTI)
Pramod Sawant (R) with other BJP leaders in Panjim on Monday. (Photo | PTI)

MUMBAI: A practitioner of Ayurveda, Dr Pramod Sawant has become Goa Chif Minister for the second time. A Maratha by caste, he initially started social work with Nehru Youth Centre and later got attracted to RSS and its social work. In his younger days, he worked as a doctor with the state government.

Outside official duty hours, Sawant used to arrange medical check-up camps through his NGO for the poor in various parts of Goa.

Erstwhile Goa CM, the late Manohar Parrikar saw a spark in him and asked him to resign from government service and join politics.

Sawant contested the by-elections in 2008 for BJP after the seat was vacated following the death of the MLA.

He lost narrowly to Congress candidate Pratap Gauns from the Sankhalim (then Pale) seat.

Sawant did not get disheartened and started reaching out to people. He became very active in social work and politics.

In 2012, he won from the same seat and was made the head of a local board. He got re-elected in 2017 and became the Assembly Speaker.

After the death of Parrikar in 2019, Sawant was the only BJP MLA who had not come from another party. So he was the natural choice for chief minister.

It was big shoes to fill. Sawant not only survived his tenure but also but brought 10 Congress MLAs to BJP. It secured his chair and also, strengthened the party ahead of the 2022 state polls.

This year, Sawant won by just 666 votes against Dharmesh Saglani of Congress. Despite that, the BJP leadership chose him to lead Goa again.

“He is a man of patience who listens to all sections of the society. He hardly makes controversial statements. He has good grip over administration and emerged as the Bahujan face of BJP, therefore the Catholic community goes with him,” said Kishor Naik Gaonakar, editor of Goan Varta.

On Monday evening, Sawant, who considered Parrikar as his mentor, was unanimously elected the leader of BJP legislature party in Goa, clearing the way for him to take over as the chief minister for a second term.

The BJP, in power in Goa since 2012, is starting its third straight term in office.

The BJP under Sawant overcame anti-incumbency and resignations by some key figures, including Parrikar's son, over ticket allocation, and put up its second best performance ever - winning 20 seats in the 40-member Assembly in multi-cornered fights in the February 14 polls.

Sawant, who took over as chief minister for the first time in March 2019, brought the BJP tantalizingly close to the simple majority mark of 21, defying pre-poll predictions of a hung Assembly.

He has now been rewarded with a second term in office by the BJP leadership with support for his incoming government coming from two MLAs of the regional outfit MGP and three Independent legislators.

The BJP's best performance till date had been 21 seats won by it in 2012 when Parrikar dominated Goa's political scene.

The 48-year-old politician is a three-time MLA from Sankhalim in North Goa.

He was elected Speaker of the Legislative Assembly when the BJP formed its government under the leadership of Parrikar in 2017.

He was sworn in as the chief minister for the first time in March 2019 after the death of Parrikar.

The Ayurveda medical practitioner is considered close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and was pictured participating in an RSS event during his first term as the chief minister.

Sawant was at the helm when the coastal state faced the COVID-19 pandemic along with other parts of the country.

Sawant's electoral career began in 2008 when he was fielded from the Sankhalim (then Pale) Assembly segment by the BJP, but he lost to Congress candidate Pratap Gauns.

However, he managed to win the seat in 2012 when the BJP contested the elections under the leadership of Parrikar.

That was the only time when the BJP won a majority on its own in the Assembly.

He got re-elected in 2017 from Sankhalim and went on to become the Assembly Speaker before being chosen by the BJP, at the age of 46, to succeed Parrikar as the CM.

In the 2022 polls, Sawant was elected with a margin of 666 votes against his nearest rival Dharmesh Saglani of the Congress.

His wife, Sulakshana, is also an active BJP worker and associated with the party's women's wing in Goa.

(With PTI Inputs)

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