BJP should project Goa CM Manohar Parrikar for the post of Prime Minister
I have a silver bullet solution to the BJP's second generational leadership problems. Alright, it's not a silver bullet but I have a name. I think it is time that the BJP considered Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar as a possible prime ministerial candidate. Think about it. Not only has his two-decade-long political career been devoid of controversy, he has also managed to practice inclusive electoral politics as the Goa assembly elections held earlier this year reveal. To top it all he's a geek - Parrikar is the first IITian to have ever occupied the office of Chief Minister in any Indian state.
At a time when venality seems to permeate large strands of our polity, Parrikar by most counts stands out as a hard-working, down-to-earth politician who seems to have stuck to his middle class roots. His work ethic is noted for its approachable style, as evidenced by his practice of personally replying to e-mails sent to his official id by members of the general public. And Parrikar is no newcomer. This is his third stint as Chief Minister of a state that is now one of India's most prosperous provinces and he certainly has a mass following there that is noteworthy, regardless of the overall size of the state.
In fact, were he to be projected as a potential Prime Minister, it would do a world of good to federalism in India. It would reassure the smaller states that they too have a chance of being represented in the key offices of the Union. It would show that merit and not just any over-weaning identity-derived clout can suffice to catapult someone to a national leadership position.
Parrikar's elevation would reassure India's aspirational masses that mere lineage and/or sycophancy are not necessary conditions for attaining high office. Moreover it would also mean that a person who has managed to pull hitherto divergent electorates together is being chosen for leadership by India's largest conservative party. Goa, in some sense is a microcosm of India with its difficult history and a relatively large population of minorities. But in the assembly elections held in March, the BJP under Parrikar's leadership managed to secure a fair share of the Catholic votes, something that would have been considered unthinkable even five years ago. Manohar Parrikar has therefore broadbased the BJP in a way in the southern Konkan, and this is good news for the party.
At the end of the day, Parrikar also stands out for his educational background which includes a graduation in metallurgical engineering from IIT Bombay. In a country where the IIT continues to be hallowed territory for many, this is a piece of information that will certainly be taken note of by large sections of the urban electorate. After all, a lot of people do respect Manmohan Singh for his academic contributions. The same effect will also work in Parrikar's favour. This is one geek that the BJP will do well to project.
More about Saurav Jha
Saurav Jha studied economics (and debated politics) at Presidency College, Calcutta, and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He writes and researches on global energy and security issues and is a regular contributor to publications such as World Politics Review, The Diplomat and Le Monde Diplomatique, and has written for Deccan Herald, The Telegraph and Hindustan Times. He is the Consulting Editor of Geopolitics magazine. His first book, The Upside Down Book of Nuclear Power, was published in March 2010 to excellent reviews. He is presently working on The Heat and Dust Project, a quirky travelogue, based on an intense budget journey through India, co-authored with his wife Devapriya.
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