India’s former defence minister and serving chief minister of the western state of Goa, , died on Sunday, officials said. A technocrat turned politician, 63-year-old Parrikar was a senior member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He had been suffering from cancer.
“Extremely sorry to hear of the passing of Shri Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa, after an illness borne with fortitude and dignity,” Indian President Ramnath Kovind tweeted on Sunday.
Parrikar passed away at his residence in Goa, local news channels reported.As defence minister, he oversaw the controversial deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation for around $8.7 billion, the country’s first major acquisition of combat planes in two decades.
The deal has been the centre of allegations from India’s main opposition party, Congress, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government paid too much and that it forced Dassault to accept Indian businessman Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as its Indian partner even though the company had no such prior experience in defence contracting. Dassault has defended the pricing and denied it was forced to pick Reliance as a partner. Ambani has previously said that the Congress party has been misled and misinformed by corporate rivals and vested interests.
“India will be eternally grateful to Shri Manohar Parrikar for his tenure as our Defence Minister … India witnessed a series of decisions that enhanced India’s security capacities, boosted indigenous defence production and bettered the lives of ex-servicemen,” Prime Minister Modi tweeted.
Parrikar, who rose from a pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to become the country’s defence minister and also chief minister of Goa,
enjoyed a man-next-door image in the politically-volatile coastal state.
He was a leader who enjoyed acceptance from all sections of the BJP and beyond. He played a key role in making the BJP a force to reckon with in Goa, which remained for long a Congress bastion, with regional outfits having pockets of influence.
Born on December 13, 1955 into a middle class family, his political career began as an RSS pracharak and he continued working for the Sangh even after graduating from IIT-Bombay as a metallurgical engineer. Parrikar entered electoral politics in 1994 when he won on a BJP ticket from Panaji constituency.
He was the defence minister from November 2014 to March 2017. The central government has announced national mourning on Monday. Goa will observe seven days of state mourning from March 18 to March 24, both days inclusive.
‘During the period, National Flag will fly at Half Mast on all the buildings across Goa and there’ll be no official entertainment,’ the government of Goa said.
The Union Cabinet will meet on Monday to condole the demise of Parrikar. The special cabinet meeting would be held at 10 am. A two-minute would be observed in his memory and a resolution would also be passed hailing Parrikar’s contribution as a public figure, official sources said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, ‘Shri Manohar Parrikar was an unparalleled leader. A true patriot and exceptional administrator, he was admired by all. His impeccable service to the nation will be remembered by generations. Deeply saddened by his demise. Condolences to his family and supporters. Om Shanti.’
‘Shri Manohar Parrikar was the builder of modern Goa. Thanks to his affable personality and accessible nature, he remained the preferred leader of the state for years. His pro-people policies ensured Goa scales remarkable heights of progress.
‘India will be eternally grateful to Shri Manohar Parrikar for his tenure as our Defence Minister. 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,’ Modi said in a series of tweets.
BJP president Amit Shah tweeted, ‘Manohar Parrikar ji’s demise is extremely painful. In him, the nation has lost a true patriot who selflessly dedicated his entire life to the country and ideology. Parrikar ji’s commitment towards his people and duties was exemplary.’
Despite his falling health, Parrikar had presented two state budgets in 2018 and 2019 and had attended public functions, including the inauguration of an iconic bridge across River Mandovi.
Several political leaders, including Union AYUSH Minister Shripad Naik, Assembly Speaker Pramod Sawant and Lok Sabha MP Narendra Sawaikar, started arriving at the private residence of Parrikar in Dona Paula after the news of his demise broke.