Following an outrage on social media, the opposition parties are protesting against Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s presence at a book release function in Goa, hours after a major terrorist strike in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress have asked the former Goa chief minister to safeguard India’s borders and not continue to interfere in state politics as a “Super CM”.
Congress leader Durgadas Kamat claims that if an Indian defence minister can spare two days a week “chilling” in Goa, there was something seriously amiss. “Defence minister is a full-time job. The country does not want a part-timer in that position. How can (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi, himself a workaholic, allow his defence minister to do such a shoddy, half-hearted job?” Kamat asks.
On Friday evening, hours after suspected militants from the Lashkar-e-Taiba attacked an army camp in Baramulla killing eight soldiers and two policemen, Parrikar took time to attend a literary festival held on the outskirts of Panaji. Ever since he was elevated as defence minister in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government last month, Parrikar, who is synonymous with the BJP in the politically non-significant state, has been visiting Goa two to three days almost every week.
BJP sources told that Parrikar was in the process of establishing a camp office in Panaji, where he is expected to spend two days each week to oversee political as well as administrative matters in Goa. “The staff is being shortlisted. The camp office will be located at the Paryatan bhavan,” a source said.
Reacting to the former chief minister’s constant presence in Goa, NCP state vice president Trajano D’Mello asked Parrikar to stop riding two boats — in the national interest. “You cannot be defence minister and continue to run Goa by remote control. The problem with Parrikar is he is too used to being No.1. He cannot be No.1 in the NDA with Modi around. Therefore he wants to come to Goa, where his writ runs over his replacement chief minister,” D’Mello said.
Parrikar has defended his presence in Goa over the weekend. “There are some who said I should be in Kashmir… If I am in Kashmir the army will have to spend energy on taking care of me,” the defence minister said, adding he was monitoring the Kashmir situation on an hourly basis.
The Bharatiya Janata Party in Goa believes that Parrikar’s weekly departures from South Block to Goa were not an issue, and if some sorting out was needed, Modi and Parrikar could handle it among themselves. “He (Parrikar) knows his job better than me… If he comes to Goa, the party here is happy,” state BJP vice president Wilfred Mesquita told.
“But if there is something to be done there, he and the prime minister will do it. It is not an issue for us,” he said.
Earlier, a photograph of the defence minister’s presence at the Goa book release went viral on the social media, with Twitter commentators drawing comparisons with former home ministers in the UPA government Sushil Kumar Shinde and Shivraj Patil, whose tenure was marked by controversies. While Patil came under fire in 2008 for taking time for a change of shirts in the aftermath of a terror strike in Mumbai, Shinde attracted flak for attending a movie music launch and posing alongside actress Kangana Ranaut after the serial blasts in Patna last year.