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CM Parrikar loses his battle with cancer; Goa in political turmoil

Parrikar’s health worsened sharply Saturday, sending the BJP into a huddle, after which the party acknowledged that the “chances of his getting better are slim”.

Written by Smita Nair | Panaji |
Updated: March 18, 2019 8:05:33 am
CM Parrikar loses his battle with cancer; Goa in political turmoil Manohar Parrikar passed away at his residence in Dona Paula, Sunday. He was 63. (Express Archive)

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar lost a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer Sunday evening, breathing his last at his private residence in Dona Paula. The four-time Chief Minister and former Union Defence Minister was 63.

Parrikar’s health worsened sharply Saturday, sending the BJP into a huddle, after which the party acknowledged that the “chances of his getting better are slim”.

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At 7 pm on Sunday evening, as relatives and close friends of the family started to arrive, the chief minister’s office posted on its official Twitter handle that Parrikar’s condition was “extremely critical” and that doctors were trying their best. By 7.30 pm, the barricades had been erected, Director General of Police Pranab Nanda and Chief Secretary Parimal Rai had arrived, and BJP leaders and workers had assembled in large numbers.

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One of the first to confirm the news was President Ram Nath Kovind. The official Twitter handle of Rashtrapati Bhavan paid tribute to Parrikar’s “fortitude and dignity” in his fight with illness. The President described Parrikar as “an epitome of integrity and dedication in public life”, and said “his service to the people of Goa and of India will not be forgotten”.

In a series of tweets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Parrikar was an “unparalleled leader”, and a “true patriot and exceptional administrator” whose “impeccable service to the nation will be remembered by generations”. The country will be “eternally grateful… for his tenure as our Defence Minister”, the Prime Minister said. “When he was RM, India witnessed a series of decisions that enhanced India’s security capacities, boosted indigenous defence production and bettered the lives of ex-servicemen.”

Parrikar became defence minister in November 2014, and he held the post until March 2017, when he returned to Goa for his fourth stint as chief minister. He had been chief minister earlier from October 2000 to February 2002, June 2002 to February 2005, and from March 2012 to November 2014.

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The central government announced a day of national mourning on Monday. The national flag will fly at half mast in New Delhi and in the capitals of all states and Union Territories. The Union Cabinet will meet at 10 am on Monday to pay tribute to the leader. Goa announced seven days of mourning from Monday until March 24.

The late chief minister will be accorded a state funeral on Monday. An official release from the CMO said his mortal remains will be kept at the BJP head office in Panaji for an hour from 9.30 am, after which they will be taken to Kala Academy for people to pay their last respects. The funeral procession to Miramar will start at 4 pm, and the Antim Kriya will be performed at 5 pm.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi posted on Twitter: “I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Goa CM, Shri Manohar Parrikar Ji, who bravely battled a debilitating illness for over a year. Respected and admired across party lines, he was one of Goa’s favourite sons. My condolences to his family in this time of grief.”

The Archbishop of Goa and Daman expressed profound grief, and prayed “that the Almighty may grant him the eternal reward for all the good that he practised on earth”. The Church described Parrikar’s passing as a great loss to the people of Goa, who it said appreciated the late leader’s “sense of secularism and communal harmony and respect for the various religions, cultures and traditions of the people”.

Parrikar started out as an RSS worker, and continued working for the Sangh after he graduated from IIT-Bombay as a metallurgical engineer. He entered the Goa legislative Assembly as a BJP member in 1994, and is credited with having built the party into a force in the state. Prime Minister Modi described him as “the builder of modern Goa” who, “thanks to his affable personality and accessible nature, remained the preferred leader of the state for years”. Parrikar’s “pro-people policies ensured Goa scaled remarkable heights of progress”, Modi tweeted. Parrikar’s battle with pancreatic cancer began over a year ago, and he visited the United States for treatment soon afterward. He worked from his private residence, where he chaired meetings of his Cabinet. With his health failing, the chief minister presented Goa’s Budgets in 2018 and 2019, and attended several public functions. Among his last pictures was one that showed him with a feeder tube protruding from one nostril. He is survived by his two sons and their families.

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