Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, whose social engineering formula of wooing Catholics to BJP through 'good governance' and his personal charisma is facing formidable challenge barely two years from successful State Assembly elections of 2012, thanks to Church's apprehension over BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's secular credentials, spoke to The Hindu in Panaji ahead of Saturday Lok Sabha polls in Goa.
Mr. Parrikar justified the BJP's decision not to put a minority candidate in Catholic-dominated south Goa Lok Sabha constituency saying, "to give ticket to a minority candidate artificially just to try and give a signal was not correct."
Responding to the allegation that by persisting with Mr. Narendra Sawaikar, a candidate from RSS cadre in south Goa, BJP lost an opportunity to give ticket to a Catholic, Mr. Parrikar said, "If a good minority candidate was there, we would have definitely given ticket. If there is a fit candidate, we do not care about religion, caste and creed. Mr. Sawaikar has been working in south Goa for long.
Let me tell you, when the next Rajya Sabha seat election comes, we can consider minority candidate".
Undeterred by the palpable restlessness in BJP over Church advisory asking people to vote for secular parties, which is considered as against likely Modi-led BJP government, Mr. Parrikar exuded confidence to repeat his last Assembly performance when BJP swept the polls to get more Catholic MLAs for BJP and alliance partners than the Congress.
Trying to down-play the Church circular, Mr. Parrikar said that it comes out ahead of every election urging people to vote secular parties, so he did not see any reason why it should make any difference to BJP prospects in this election only.
He claimed he has found no change in the attitude of minority voters or MLAs which support his party towards BJP in the aftermath of the advisory. Moreover, he said, to be fair to the circular, "it has not named BJP. So everyone interprets it the way they want."
On his government's performance, he said, "Despite so many difficulties and financial bottlenecks like mining ban which hit the State GDP and State revenues, we continued the growth rate of about 7-8 per cent overcoming all hurdles. That is the biggest achievement.
People appreciate that we have done well in agriculture, animal husbandry, excellent in social welfare, reasonably well in health and education. Then why should there be any decline in popularity, I continue to get same response from people."
On the criticism of several U-turns of his government in last two years on various promises made prior to coming to power, Mr. Parrikar said, "I don't understand this language, what are they talking. My manifesto is my Bible. Show me a single case where we have gone back on promise?
Some issues are under execution( like casinos), some like Regional Plan are kept pending. When you face a situation like mining ban and subsequent crisis, time frame for execution of some promises has to be changed. It has to be flexible, to change priorities. You cannot grapple with several major issues at the same time". "Manifesto is for five years, one cannot expect it to be completely
implemented in two years. Time lines do change based on realities of governance once you take over. 95 per cent of the promises will be met by the end of my term," said the Chief Minister justifying his failures to meet deadlines on some of the promises.
He denies any attempts at down-playing promotion of Modi in Catholic dominated south Goa. He justifies his public statements that in the larger context of formation of government at national level, two Goa seats may not be as important. "But, I insist, for Goa BJP they are very important to ensure that the local government has a larger say post-election over Goa's issues and concerns to be taken up with the Central Government," he says.
He predicted that BJP will not only retain north Goa seat but wrest south Goa from Congress with fairly comfortable margins.
On repeated prodding, Mr. Parrikar ruled out assuming national role post Lok Sabha elections.
When asked if the party asks him to come to Delhi, he said, "I don't mind assisting party in Delhi by continuing to be in Goa. Why you have to be a Minister only in Delhi to help party?" he asked declining to give any credence to recent media speculations about NDA's potential Cabinet.