Tuesday 26th March 2019 07:03 EDT

Amidst the brouhaha of the Lilliputians, a giant was gathered to his fathers. Manohar Parrikar, longtime Chief Minister of Goa and former Indian Defence Minister die at his home in Panaji, having lost his battle with cancer of the pancreas.  Born in December 1955, in Mapusa, North Goa, he was educated in Mumbai, gaining admission into the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Bombay), from where he passed out with a B.Tech in metallurgical engineering.

A dedicated RSS member from his youth, he started his own hydraulic engineering business, giving it up following his entry into politics. His early days as a politician were none too promising, but it wasn’t too long before he made his mark in 1994, winning a seat in the State Assembly elections in 1994, with the BJP also making its first bow in Goa. In October 2000, Parrikar became Chief Minister of Goa, the State’s first IItian, was elected again in 2002, then again in 2012, when the BJP gained control of the 40-seat State legislature with 21 seats. He was the first major BJP leader to endorse Narendra Modi’s candidature for prime minister in the general election of May 2014. 

Defence Minister

In November 2014, he was appointed India’s Defence Minister, breaking the logjam of files and decisions of his predecessor, the honest but hopelessly inept A.K. Antony. The paralytic administration, thereafter, attained a measure of dynamism. Progress was made in taking the manufacture of India’s first domestically-designed fighter aircraft, Tejas,  forward to the next level (it is now in full production having overcome its teething problems). He forwarded his approval to the Cabinet Committee on Defence, India’s participation in the manufacture of the Russian-designed Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft, of which there has been little heard since, despite declining force levels in the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Under Parrikar’s charge, the IAF was authorized, in September 2016, to undertake a strike in the Kashmir’s Uri sector at jihadi bases in its environs. But the fluid politics of Goa forced Prime Minister Modi to transfer Parrikar back to the State as Chief Minister, where he had first distinguished himself, putting on the cultural map with hugely successful film festival, and as a major soccer hub for aspiring youth, and a magnet for domestic and foreign tourism.

Declaration, governance 

Manohar Parrikar’s final declaration summed up his life and work. ‘I am a perfect Hindu, but that has nothing to with my government. India is a Hindu nation in the cultural sense. A Catholic in Goa is also Hindu culturally, because his practices don’t match with Catholics in Brazil. Except in the religious aspect, a Goan Catholic’s way of thinking matches a Hindu’s. So, Hindu for me is not a religious term, it is cultural. I am not the Hindu nationalist as understood by some TV media – not one who will take out a sword and kill a Muslim.’

Parrikar’s governments were coalitions of the willing: BJP partnering a local Catholic party. Their performance on the whole was exemplary (Times of India, Hindu March 18).

Promod Sawant Chief Minister

Manohar Parrikar’s successor is the Speaker of the Goa Assembly, 46 year-old Promod Sawant, who was duly elected Chief Minister. The Deputy Speaker, Francis D’Souza, of the BJP, was appointed Speaker.

Poll puts BJP in lead

A tracker poll by Times Now and VMR, part of the Times of India group, has placed the BJP-led alliance  ahead of its  Opposition rivals, with an estimated 283 seats in the new Lok Sabha, Congress second with an estimated 135 seats and others around 125 seats. The BJP appeared to have gained 13 seats, since the earlier poll, following the India’s Balacot strike on a jihadi base (Times of India March 19).

Nirav Modi held in UK

Diamond merchant Nirav Modi’s months on the run ended at a UK bank where he was recognized and arrested by the police. His appeal for bail was rejected by a London court. Extradition to India after due process are expected under way soon (Hindu, Business Line, Times of India March 21).   

Rupee up with ‘strong money inflows’

The Indian rupee scaled up in value as foreign money kept flowing into the country. The currency breached the key psychological level of 69 and surged to a high of 68.44 to the US dollar. The inflow of foreign money into equity is responsible for the rupee’s rise. Foreign Portfolio Investors bought $2.2 billion last week in Indian equities, and $1.2 million in the debt segment. In fact, Foreign Portfolio Investors poured in $5 billion in equities over the last three weeks.

Goldman Sachs Upgrade

Global investment bank Goldman Sachs has upgraded India’s equities to ‘overweight’ predicting that the country’s stocks are set to accelerate in the lead-up to the upcoming general election. In September 2018, Goldman Sachs had down downgraded Indian stocks, citing ‘political and economic risks and risk situation.’ The reversed assessment was driven by the current upsurge in the benchmarks of the Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange upswing  caused by third quarter earnings data, and revived inflows of foreign portfolio investors based on optimism about political stability in the post election period.

GST Council aids housing sector

The GST Council has given builders an option to choose between old tax rates and new ones for construction projects incomplete on March 31. That the GST Council has given the green light comes as a considerable relief for the housing sector in handling transition issues. For upcoming projects, reduced rates of 5 per cent and 1 per cent will be applicable from April 1 (Statesman, Times of India, Hindu March 20).   

Pinaki Ghose first Lokpal

Pinaki Chandra Ghose, a former judge of India’s Supreme Court, has been appointed India’s first Lokpal (anti- corruption Ombudsman) by a high level selection committee chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The other members of the committee were the present Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Ranjan Gogoi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and eminent jurist Mukul Rohatgi. Born in  Calcutta and educated at the city’s St Xavier’s College, Justice Ghose won his spurs as an advocate at the Calcutta High Court, proceeded later to become Chief Justice of the Andhra High Court before being elevated as Justice in the Supreme Court (Hindu March 18, 19). 

First supercomputer on anvil at IIT-Kgp

Within an estimated three months, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, will be ready with its first supercomputer under the umbrella of the National Supercomputing Mission. The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing is an autonomous science body of the Ministry of Electronics and Information (Times of India March 15)    

Mukesh Ambani bails out brother, Anil

Life in the business world is not always about boardrooms, company merges or splits. The human factor can occasionally subsume all three. When the younger of the two Ambani brothers, Anil was in dire straits unable to pay a massive company debt to Ericsson within the allotted time set by a court, impatient at repeated delays, and hence risking imprisonment, elder brother Mukesh and wife Nita stepped into the breach and forked out the monies required – Rs 430 crore - to meet the debt. The brothers were once at loggerheads over the separation of the business bequeathed to them by their legendary father Dhirubhai Ambani. That was a long time ago. The rift was mended, but while Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance soared to the skies – oil, gas, Jio telecommunications, Anil’s companies appeared to founder. Such is the broad canvas. Anyway, Anil’s acknowledgement of his brother’s generosity was moving. ‘my sincere and heartfelt thanks to my respected elder brother Mukesh, and Nita, for standing by me during  these trying times…I and my family are deeply grateful….deeply touched with this gesture.’ (Times of India March 19).

Dalai Lama alarms China 

Tibet’s revered spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, set the cat among the pigeons by suggesting that his possible successor – he now being 83 – could emerge from within the Tibetan community in India. Tibetan Buddhism attached to the doctrine of reincarnation, has for centuries undertaken the practice of searching for his successor within the country. This is an involved process, best explained elsewhere, but the Dalai Lama’s statement set the cat among the pigeons in Beijing, which having brazenly invaded Tibet in November 1950 on the absurdly malicious excuse that it was part of China from time immemorial (Hindu March 18).

Might is Right

Tibet had an independent government, ministers, a National Assembly, an army, its own currency, passports etc when invaded by China. Tibetan unrest may wax and wane, but it is ever present. The Chinese government reacting to the Dalai Lama’s statement averred that it was for China to decide his successor in keeping with Tibetan tradition - under China’s military jackboot?

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