Parrikar knows deal secrets, says Cong

Parrikar has made three US trips for treatment since being admitted to Mumbai’s Lilavati hospital with a pancreatic ailment in mid-February. He has been at AIIMS, New Delhi, since September 15

By Our Special Correspondent in New Delhi
  • Published 14.10.18, 2:13 AM
  • Updated 14.10.18, 2:13 AM
  • 3 mins read
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Chodankar said that governance had come to a standstill in Goa for almost nine months but Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah did not dare remove Parrikar (in pic). File picture

The Congress on Saturday alleged that the ailing Manohar Parrikar was not being removed as chief minister despite a paralysis of governance in Goa because he was the defence minister when the Rafale deal was signed and knew many uncomfortable truths.

“We have absolutely no doubt that Parrikar knows a lot of things about the Rafale deal,” Goa Congress chief Girish Chodankar told a media conference.

“He would have all the relevant files, having been the defence minister at the time. And he is not one to keep silent; he will reveal all if the BJP removes him.”

The Congress alleges that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pressured the French to give the Rafale offset contract to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence, while keeping the defence and foreign ministries in the dark.

Parrikar has made three US trips for treatment since being admitted to Mumbai’s Lilavati hospital with a pancreatic ailment in mid-February. He has been at AIIMS, New Delhi, since September 15.

Chodankar said that governance had come to a standstill in Goa for almost nine months but Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah did not dare remove Parrikar.

“Goa has become an open stage for corruption in the absence of leadership. We have petitioned the governor five times but nothing has been done. We want a special session of the Assembly to discuss the paralysis of governance,” he said.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said: “If Rafale is not the reason, give us the reasons (for not removing Parrikar). When Arun Jaitley was not well, the finance portfolio was given to Piyush Goyal.”

He added: “We wish a speedy recovery for Parrikar but how long will Goa suffer? What is the compulsion for sticking with an ailing chief minister who can’t function? It is not in Parrikar’s interest to bear the burden of governance when he is so unwell.”

Khera cited how two Goa ministers, Francis D’Souza and Pandurang Madkaikar, were recently dropped on health grounds.

“Why special treatment to Parrikar? Cabinet meetings are usually held every week — Parrikar was compelled to hold a cabinet meeting after a long time at AIIMS. Modi and Shah must come clean: if not Rafale, what is the reason for persisting with this?”

Parrikar, defence minister from November 2014 to March 2017, was visiting Goa when Modi announced the Rafale deal in April 2015. Parrikar publicly admitted he was not in the know and that the cabinet committee on security’s approval for the deal had been taken post-facto.

Parrikar has not defended the government’s claim of a confidentiality clause on the price of the jets, and all the fire-fighting has been done by current defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

There had been speculation that the BJP was ready to appoint a new Goa chief minister when Parrikar got admitted to AIIMS, but Shah declared he would continue.

The Congress has mounted pressure on the Goa governor to give it a chance to form the government amid growing unease among the BJP’s coalition partners. The Congress is anyway the largest party in Goa.

“We were informed of Parrikar’s illness nine months ago when he was being shifted to Mumbai for treatment,” Chodankar said.

“We extended full cooperation; the BJP wanted a curtailed four-day Assembly session and we agreed. We cooperated when Parrikar was shifted to the US. The BJP would not have extended this kind of sympathetic cooperation for such a long time.”

He added: “But now it (the situation) has (been) prolonged far too long; they could have appointed a deputy CM, acting CM or an even an ‘in-charge’ but no leadership structure is in place. Most important portfolios are also with the chief minister.”

He recalled that BJP lawmaker and deputy Speaker Michael Lobo had said on October 5 that “the state administration has totally collapsed” because of Parrikar’s absence.

“The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, an ally of the BJP, has said it is high time Parrikar handed over charge to the (next) senior-most minister,” Chodankar said.

He demanded a floor test in the Assembly to allow the Congress to prove its majority.