Parrikar government turns one: king of u-turns?

    By Mayabhushann Nagvenkar,IANS,

    Panaji: If Goa has been bracing for a breath of fresh air with the toppling by the BJP of the corruption-ridden Digambar Kamat-led Congress regime in the assembly elections a year ago, the zephyr is simply not wafting in.

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    Activist Aires Rodrigues calls it a year of “confusion, contradictions and controversies”.

    And as far as contradictions go, there could be no greater contradiction exhibited by the Manohar Parrikar administration than the manner in which it handled Goa’s multi-billion rupee mining scam since it assemed office March 9, 2012.

    After almost heroically taking on the powerful illegal mining lobby for years together, the BJP in 2011 wrote to the President seeking action into Goa’s illegal mining scam estimated at Rs.25,000 crore. The Justice M.B. Shah Commission pegged the scam at an even higher Rs.35,000 crore.

    A few months into power, Parrikar however rejected the assessment of the judicial commission and reneged on the Rs.25,000 crore loss assessment, which was endorsed by then party president Nitin Gadkari.

    In an even more shocking statement three months after coming to power, the chief minister told the Goa Assembly last July that there were “no illegal mines operating in Goa”. Parrikar now pegs the scam at only Rs 4,000 crore.

    Such mysterious turnarounds have led the Congress to dub the chief minister as the “unrivalled king of U-turns”.

    “Till count he has made more than 30 U-turns on issues of critical importance like Lokayukta, mining, SEZ, education in mother tongue and the like,” Congress spokesperson Sudip Tamhankar said.

    The issue of the forever delayed appointment of the Lokayukta also brings to the fore the predicament of a maverick chief minister who appears to be a victim of his own image of an efficient administrator.

    After promising a functioning Lokayukta within 100 days of coming to power, the ombudsman still eludes Goa a year later. This, despite the government formally notifying the appointment of B. Sudarshan Reddy, a former Supreme Court judge.

    Miguel Braganza, who has interacted with the chief minister on several occasions as a civil society activist, says that Parrikar, in his second stint as chief minister, is a man who has lost control. “He is a control freak who has lost control. This is a non-performing government,” Braganza said.

    Others like Ganesh Gaitonde – whose travel agency The Royal Indian Tours is located in the heart of Goa’s tourism belt of Calangute – however believe that the BJP administration has helped rein in crime and manage the garbage crisis, which was burgeoning out of hand.

    “I have been travelling to Calangute for 11 years and these are the two tangible changes which I have seen happen in the last one year,” Gaitonde said.

    Other BJP supporters point out to the dramatic slash in VAT on petrol and women-oriented financial schemes which the Parrikar-led administration has successfully introduced which provide for Rs.1 lakh for women for their marriage and a dole for housewives to combat inflation.

    Parrikar, who won a Politician of the Year award instituted by a national news channel this year, has been hollering from the rooftops about this being his last stint as chief minister. But with the IITian’s mood swings, of late one simply does not know how if this is so. Should one believe him or just sigh and prepare for yet another U-turn?

    (Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at [email protected]