The two-and-a-half years of the BJP -led coalition government in Goa are known for ‘U-turns’ on key policy pledges on mining, casinos and failure to deliver on the promise of corruption-free good governance. As for the future, a string of developments leave little doubt that Manohar Parrikar’s ‘Goa Express’ is taking a Right Turn ahead.
On paper and in person, Parrikar cuts a better figure than most Indian politicians. An IIT alumnus, with a stubble, easy smile, seemingly humble in appearance right from his dishevelled hair to his scuffed sandals, who professes a modern- yet-efficient touch to an imagination-starved and dour government mechanism.
Yet despite the pedigree, not only has he shockingly failed to deliver on the promises, over the last two months, the Parrikar regime — once considered friendly to Goa’s 26% Christians — has played a mute spectator to some of the most retrograde actions committed by his police force, Cabinet colleagues and the BJP’s friends in the Hindu Right.
Some days after Narendra Modi was sworn in as PM, the police came knocking on Facebook user Devu Chodankar’s door, seeking his arrest for uploading a post accusing Modi of plotting a holocaust. In July, NRI Savio Almeida was booked for sharing a morphed photo of PWD minister Sudin Dhavalikar in a pink bikini on a social media site. While the police showed eagerness in registering the two offences, another complaint against Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik accusing him of communal incitement by promising to provide every Hindu in Goa a sword and a Gita, was not registered.
The comments made by the Dhavalikar brothers Sudin and Deepak — both Cabinet ministers — demanding a ban on bikinis, mini-skirts, pubs and asking for the creation of a Hindu nation under Modi were not censured by Parrikar. He not only ridiculed the media reportage of the comments, on the contrary, he professed agreement with Sudin’s comments. A few days later, Deepak’s call for a Hindu nation was backed by deputy CM Francis D’Souza, who went on to say India was already a ‘Hindu Nation’ and he, a ‘Christian Hindu’. Also, as proof of the BJP-led regime’s intolerance to criticism of its governance by civil society, the government is now mulling special legislation to take on ‘rogue’ NGOs and activists.
Earlier this week, the state art and culture ministry’s efforts-in-progress to censor local Konkani theatre, popular among Christians, by officially coercing theatre directors to not criticise politicians, MLAs VIPs and government officials was exposed in the assembly.
The BJP in Goa had banked on the Christians to march to power in 2012. As many as a third of its contesting candidates were Christian and party officials repeatedly spoke of their increased bonhomie with Goa church officials, especially the Archbishop Fr. Filipe Neri Ferrao.
But the BJP’s sudden course correction to hardline Hindutva here, after its triumphant Lok Sabha campaign, has left behind a foamy, luminous wake, which is being interpreted by the state’s disillusioned intelligentsia and social media as the saffron party’s ‘hidden agenda’ finally rising to the surface in Goa, known for its laid-back style and amicable relationship between religious communities.
Perhaps everyone was guilty of misreading the navigational heading charted by Manohar Parrikar and co. as early as March 2014. The signs were there for all to see.
The BJP-led coalition government’s 2014-15 budget carried the seeds of a Hindutva makeover with budgetary allocations for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologue Indresh Kumar’s defence academy project in Goa and Baba Ramdev’s outfits taking charge of yoga in government schools and clearing stray cattle off the state’s roads.
For the former Portuguese colony, its transformation from being the Rome of the East to the Kashi of West India may well have begun.
Mayabhushan Nagvenkar is a Goa-based journalist
The views expressed by the author are personal