Catholics in Goa are culturally Hindu and India is a Hindu nation in the cultural sense, chief minister Manohar Parrikar has said.
"India is a Hindu nation in the cultural sense. A Catholic in Goa is also Hindu culturally because his practices don't match with Catholics in Brazil except in the religious aspect, a Goan Catholic's way of thinking and practice matches a Hindu's," Parrikar said in an interview to New York Times' India blog published on Wednesday.
Parrikar heads a state where the Catholic population is just under 30% of its 1.5 million population. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fielded an unprecedented eight Catholic candidates out of the 24 Assembly seats the party contested.
The 57-year-old chief minister said he was a "perfect Hindu", but added that it was his personal faith and that "it has nothing to do with government". Parrikar took pains to distinguish Hindu as a cultural rather than a religious term.
"I am not the Hindu nationalist as understood by some TV media -- not one who will take out a sword and kill a Muslim. "According to me, that is not Hindu behaviour at all. Hindus don't attack anyone, they only do so for self-defence -- that is our history," said Parrikar, seen as a critical quantum in BJP's prime minister-in-waiting candidate Narendra Modi's think tank.
Parrikar was asked in the interview if Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi should apologise for the 2002 riots. Parrikar, who once described the riots as an administrative failure, replied: "administrative failure does not mean everything is blamed on one man, Narendra Modi. What happened then was unfortunate, but that does not require his apology, it requires his correction and he has done that," he said.
"There were many reasons why people lost control in 2002 after the dead bodies [of Hindu pilgrims from an earlier attack] were shown on TV. It should not have happened, the administration should have clamped down on any violence. It was a blot on Modi's career, but he was not personally a part of it. If he is guilty by connivance he should be punished, but investigations have given him a clean chit. People who oppose him do so because they fear him."
Parrikar is seen as a critical quantum in Modi's think tank. He was also one of the leading candidates for the post of party president some years back and headed the BJP's innovation cell. The chief minister is a former Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumnus and is known for his hands-on style of governance. This is his third stint as chief minister of the state.