Of illusion and illness: Manohar Parrikar photos fail to win perception battle for BJP

Panaji, Nov 2: A steady stream of carefully choreographed activity, which included strategic release of photographs of the ailing Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar chairing meetings, appear to have further queered the pitch in BJP’s battle to manage the ongoing battle of perception to show that the government and its chief political executive are both in good health.

After months of being on the battering end to prove that the former Defence Minister’s failing health was not a deterrent to efficient administration of the state, and with the Congress even questioning whether Parrikar was alive or not, three photographs released to the media this week showing a gaunt-looking CM chairing a cabinet meet, among other interactions, have not just invoked popular ire, but barbs of pity from the opposition too.

“I earnestly request Parrikar, his family and his party leaders, please save him from this agony. Let him rest and he needs rest. Give the reins to anyone from your party. I have not spoken on this issue but when I saw the photo, I feel pity for the BJP. Please let him take rest,” former Union Minister of State of Law and Congress leader Ramakant Khalap told IANS.

In the two photographs released on October 30, showing Parrikar meeting Speaker Pramod Sawant and members of the Investment Promotion Board, one can see a gaunt-looking Parrikar’s right side profile. The CM is seated in virtually the same position, with pillows on his left thigh, through both the meetings.

A cabinet minister who attended another meeting on October 31 at the CM’s private residence said that Parrikar had medical paraphernalia strapped to the left side of his body, which the released photographs co-incidentally did not capture.

For the record, however, Panchayat Minister Mauvin Godinho insisted that the CM was in good shape.

“He participated in discussions. He gave his valuable suggestions. Except that the meeting did not take place at the Secretariat. Everything else is like a normal cabinet meeting… It is only that the Chief Minister needs a little more rest. So he will be resting for sometime. But he said that in between whenever there are issues, he will be calling each one of us individually,” Godinho said.

The BJP was forced into releasing the photos after the Congress taunted the party leadership to prove that Parrikar, who had not been seen in public since August 14, was indeed alive and able to function as a CM.

The photographs have also triggered more popular conspiracy theories about the health and well-being of the Chief Minister, who is suffering from pancreatic cancer and has been in and out of hospitals in Goa, Mumbai, New York and Delhi for nearly nine months.

When asked about the health status of the Chief Minister, state BJP president Vinay Tendulkar said: “I do not have much medical knowledge. I was not a science student. I am not that smart…”.

The story of Goa BJP’s current spell of woe does not end here. The arrival of former deputy CM Francis D’Souza, who was being treated for cancer in a US hospital, and his immediate attack on the functioning of the state BJP leadership, as well as former CM Laxmikant Parsekar’s open rebellion, has also added to the suffering of the saffron party, which is facing a tough road to the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in the coastal state.

“I am expecting raids from the Income Tax department, Central Bureau of Investigation or Enforcement Directorate now that I am back. I have criticised the functioning of the party, because it is heading downwards and I cannot tolerate what is going on,” said D’Souza who arrived from the US on a wheelchair earlier this week.

Parsekar, whose arch rival from the Congress Dayanand Sopte was inducted into the party last month, said the core committee of the BJP, which met Parrikar on Tuesday, was only taking “dictations” from party leaders, who had lost touch with ground realities.

“What is the point of attending meetings of the core committee when decisions are already taken and relayed to us? There is no discussion which takes place,” Parsekar said, adding that he had vowed to defeat Sopte in the yet-to-be-scheduled by-polls.


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