Mumbai: Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar died Sunday evening after battling advanced pancreatic cancer for more than a year. He was 63.
President Ram Nath Kovind announced Parrikar’s passing away on Twitter, writing, “Extremely sorry to hear of the passing of Shri Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa, after an illness borne with fortitude and dignity. An epitome of integrity at dedication in public life his service to the people of Goa and of India will not be forgotten.”
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Parrikar, a former defence minister, was first hospitalised in February 2018 at Mumbai’s Lilavati Hospital. He even spent time in the United States for treatment last year and was at AIIMS for a month in September-October 2018.
Parrikar, however, pulled through and steered the Goa government for five months after that and attended recent public events with a tube in his nose. He even presented the state budget in January this year, looking weak, with the tube.
“Present circumstances have prevented me from delivering a detailed budget speech, but there’s a josh (energy) that is too high, very high, and I am in hosh (consciousness). Fully in hosh,” Parrikar said in the assembly as reported by NDTV.
Despite Parrikar being critically ill, his government also survived several attempts by the Congress to effect a change at the helm. Last year, the BJP got two Congress MLAs — Dayanand Sopte and Subhash Shirodkar — to defect, strengthening the party’s position in the 40-member Goa assembly.
On Saturday, while Parrikar’s health deteriorated, the Goa Congress made another attempt to form the government, saying the BJP-led government had lost its majority in the assembly after the death of one of its MLAs, Francis D’Souza. D’Souza was removed from the Parrikar cabinet last year after he took unwell. Prior to that, he was one of the three ministers Parrikar put in charge of the government while he was on his medical leave.
On Saturday, all BJP MLAs in Goa were summoned for a meeting at the party headquarters in the state, while several Goa ministers reached Parrikar’s residence to visit their ailing CM.
The death of the chief minister, a metallurgical engineer from the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, will leave the BJP with a huge leadership vacuum that it may struggle to fill in the coastal state.
Parrikar was the only BJP leader to be able to keep the party’s patchwork coalition government, comprising the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Goa Forward Party and independents, in Goa afloat.