The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PM at Parashuram’s beachhead

Panaji, Dec. 29: The Goa seafront Atal Bihari Vajpayee has chosen on his way down from vacation spots among the mountains was also the destination of an arrow shot by another Brahmin.

Benaulim, a former fishing village in southern Goa where the Prime Minister reached today for a four-day holiday, is supposed to be the place where the arrow of the fiery Parashuram — considered an incarnation of Vishnu — is supposed to have fallen, making the coast recede.

The name Benaulim is believed to have been derived from bana (bow) and halli (the Kannada-influenced word for village). The legend goes that Parashuram fought back the Kshatriyas along the west coast and invited Brahmin settlers.

The last time Vajpayee had taken a vacation near waters was in 2000 in Kerala’s backwater-ringed Kumarakom. He had then penned the famed Kumarakom Musings, through which he sought to re-establish his secular credential after a series of ambiguous statements.

Since then, he had picked Manali for his holidays. Vajpayee’s return to the south coincides with another — and more polarised — round of debate about secularism in the wake of the Gujarat poll results. It was not known whether the Prime Minister would use the four days to pen more musings, but officials were quick to underscore that there would not be “any official engagements” during the vacation.

The Prime Minister’s touchdown also marks the beginning of a steady flow of VIPs to Goa, despite an alert by Israeli intelligence of a possible terrorist strike during the Christmas-New Year season.

Vajpayee’s deputy, L.K. Advani, is expected to follow on January 2. Besides, 20 other Union ministers are also planning to visit Goa.

Vajpayee, who arrived at 1.20 pm, is scheduled to stay in the Taj Exotica hotel in South Goa, a newer entrant in the tourism sector compared to North Goa. While the north entered the global tourism arena in the sixties, the south started exploring its tourism potential only as late as the eighties.

Some of these areas, particularly around Salcete and Canacona, are still sylvan and palm-fringed. This contrasts starkly with the cluttered North Goa coast.

Delhi has projected the Prime Minister’s visit to Goa as a boon for tourism. However, residents are gearing up for New Year celebrations cramped by the heightened security because of the high-profile visits.

Two companies of a Central paramilitary force have been brought in to enhance security during Vajpayee’s four-day visit. Machine gun-toting policemen have been posted on some beaches, while Rapid Action Force personnel were deployed at some popular tourist locations.

The Goa government has said Vajpayee’s visit would send out the signal that things are “under control” in the state.

On his arrival at the INS Hansa airport at Dabolim, Goa’s only airport, the Prime Minister was greeted by the entire state Cabinet. He then took a helicopter to Benaulim, which lies 15 km further south.

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