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My Friend And Foe, Manohar Parrikar!

His even-tempered charisma was unblemished and had no communal edge, but he leaves India's smallest state more polarised than ever before

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I first met Manohar at an august gathering in August 2011, after he expressed a desire to meet me. Manohar had informed my friends Ricardo Rebello and Armando Gonsalves that he would like to meet me and request us to work with him as campaign strategists for the 2012 elections. I agreed and he came to meet me at Armando’s house. 

We had an animated conversation about improving the state of our state, Goa, which was then mismanaged by ALIBABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES. Yes, that is what we had branded the ruling government of  the day – the CM and his forty ministers in the Cabinet. The campaign, which involved pleading with people not to be misled by FREE BOOZE and BIRYANI into voting for THUGS AND THIEVES, was low-cost, but achieved the desired impact. It went viral during the municipal elections and inspired public imagination and insight. The people responded, by electing better candidates.

Manohar met Armando, Ricardo, Hubert Gomes (an honest dentist who was also an Independent candidate) and requested us to replicate the campaign and plan a bigger strategy. I told him that I had some questions for him and needed to understand him better, before we decided to support him. He told me to ask him whatever I wanted to and said that he would answer my questions honestly.

I cautioned him that I am an NLP and Kinesics master-practitioner who studied body language to gauge if people are being truthful or not. He candidly told me to go ahead and ask him whatever I wished to. I told him I would do it some other day. He then invited me to have lunch with him the very next day.

Armando, Ricardo and I met him for lunch at the Hotel Mandovi. Unlike many other politicians I worked with, who take people’s time for granted, Manohar & associates were waiting for us, much before the scheduled time. We ordered some food and began our conversation. We discussed several topics and then I abruptly asked him, “Manohar, have you ever used political office to create personal wealth?” His immediate response was “No, Jerry, never”. I was observing him closely and he was being truthful. 

We then discussed plans to improve Goa, promote oneness, when I unpredictably said, “Manohar, in your first tenure as CM between 2000 and 2005, there was an event where Bal Thackeray announced that all churches in Goa were rebuilt, after being demolished. He incited people to demolish all churches. You were CM at that time and were present at the event. You did not say anything against him. Like many Catholics for the past many years, I also thought you were communal. Please clarify why you did not take action.” He paused for a few seconds and answered, “Jerry, did I allow demolition of the churches? At times its best not to react to such rhetoric and simply do what is right”. He further told me, “Jerry, I have many Catholic and Muslim friends and respect all religions and have a secular outlook. Our mutual friends, Armando and Ricardo will endorse that.” 

After many more interactions, I told him, “Manohar you are a MUCH BETTER MAN than the people in power currently are. I feel you have good intent and integrity. I will work with you to garner support for the elections, but have some conditions. I would like you to personally address the citizens of Goa, where they can ask you questions. You will answer them honestly and make commitments to do what is right, curtail corruption and never allow any communalism. From my side, I will moderate the Q&A and ensure that everyone speaks with you respectfully.”

He agreed to all my conditions. At the first public gathering, disgruntled citizens asked him tough questions about his plans to stop illegal mining, discontinue casinos, stop corruption and communalism, taking action against real-estate cartels who were harming the environment, etc. Manohar promised to discontinue these activities within two years. We recorded the event and it was reported in media and was on TV channels. He went on record to say that if  he did not fulfil all his commitments, we could demand his resignation and he would step down immediately.

The rest, like they say, is history. The public responded to his candour and commitments and Manohar became CM, winning by a huge majority. After becoming CM, he even joined us voluntarily to begin the mission to clean the creeks and streets of Goa (which was the humble foundation of the Swachh Bharat Mission). Manohar later influenced PM Narendra Modi to make it a national mandate. During the campaign and his first year in office, I found Manohar to be earnest, simple, austere, humble, humane, and we became good friends. A CM who would travel on a scooter or an auto, without security and stop to chat with citizens on the streets of Goa. That was Manohar, my friend.

Alas! Most commitments were never fulfilled. Neither was illegal mining stopped nor casinos discontinued. Real estate and other businesses only harmed the environment more.

Although governance was better than it was during the tenure of the earlier government, most commitments were unmet and promises were unfulfilled. Like several citizens of Goa, I too felt cheated and betrayed. I regularly reminded him right uptill his final days, “Manohar, you let us down and although many commitments are unfulfilled, due to Political-Games and Party-Alignments with businesses, I hope you will try to do right. Manohar, I pray you do not suffer much pain in your remaining moments and I do hope, you create a better legacy before you go”.

He’s gone now and held on to power till the end, without fulfilling most commitments. That is Manohar my foe, who did not even create more leaders in BJP Goa, as a better legacy.

In hindsight, I feel incongruities symbolise the life and political-flight of my friend and foe Manohar Parrikar. His personal uprightness was impeccable, yet colourful corruption and law-breaking (moral and legal) thrived in his regime. He loved India and Goa with poignant earnestness, but also nurtured and allowed enormously crucial threats, which will continually jeopardise our social, cultural, secular, economic, political and environmental wellness. 

His even-tempered charisma was unblemished and had no communal edge, but he leaves India’s smallest state more polarised than ever before, since liberation. It’s an unexpectedly catastrophic legacy for one of India’s brightest Political Rockstars. In his final days I think huge damage was done to the character of Manohar Parrikar, even as the shadow of death loomed over him. He should have been allowed some calm and peace to LET GO and depart with dignity. It’s one of the saddest, most dishonourable final chapters in the history of the world’s largest democracy and hypocrisy.

#Ideas For Action

Corruption does not apply only to making money, plundering resources and usurping land, people are also corrupted when they are over ambitious to crave more power, status, fame, position, recognition. One has to check oneself, to rise above petty ambitions and mindless profits of fame and fortune, by working with honesty of purpose and seriousness of intent. We must have integrity to live the guiding principles, for fulfilling the shared vision for the greater good of people and planet.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Jerry is a management & OD consultant, celebrated inspirational orator, teacher, UN advisor, internationally certified leadership subject matter expert, trainer, Executive coach and an effective, innovative fundraiser and missionary entrepreneur

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