Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar died on Sunday, President Ram Nath Kovind said on Twitter. Parrikar, 63, was suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer. He had reportedly been diagnosed with the disease in February 2018.

Several reports on Sunday claimed that Parrikar’s health was deteriorating, and that the Bharatiya Janata Party was making arrangements for a successor. His health took a turn for the worse on Friday night. But the Goa Chief Minister’s Office said the next day that he was in a stable condition.

“An epitome of integrity and dedication in public life, his service to the people of Goa and of India will not be forgotten,” the president said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Parrikar an unparalleled leader and a true patriot. He said 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,” Modi said on Twitter. “His pro-people policies ensured Goa scales remarkable heights of progress.”

The prime minister said India will be “eternally grateful” to Parrikar for his tenure as the country’s defence minister.

A condolence meet will be held in the Union Cabinet at 11 am on Monday, ANI reported.

Parrikar had first made a trip to the United States for treatment in March 2018 and was admitted to Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences in September after his condition deteriorated. He returned to Goa in October, but continued to work from his residence. The Opposition had objected to his absence for several months, though officials and ministers said the state was running smoothly and he had been working from the hospital.

The Congress has been demanding the dismissal of the BJP government since last year. On March 16, it staked claim to form a government in Goa. In September, the party had demanded that the governor order a floor test in the Assembly.

Former state Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Subhash Velingkar in October alleged that the BJP had not allowed Parrikar to leave the post as the party was “power-hungry”. There were rumours that the BJP and its allies were unable to decide on a replacement for Parrikar. In September, the Shiv Sena had called the Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to retain an “ailing Manohar Parrikar as chief minister” despite his illness “cruel and inhuman politics”. The Shiv Sena, which is an ally of the BJP in Maharashtra, said the ruling party was afraid of losing control over Goa.

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had reportedly been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in February 2018. (Credit: Manohar Parrikar/Facebook)
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had reportedly been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in February 2018. (Credit: Manohar Parrikar/Facebook)

Condolences pour in

Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said Parrikar was a honest and sensitive political activist. “As Raksha Mantri his contribution to making the armed forces a modernised, lean and mean fighting machine will remain unparalleled,” he added.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi called Parrikar one of “Goa’s favourite sons”. “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,” Gandhi said on Twitter. “Respected and admired across party lines, he was one of Goa’s favourite sons. My condolences to his family in this time of grief.”

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said Parrikar was a “true fighter who despite battling cancer worked tirelessly for the welfare of his people with a sense of duty and dignity”.

BJP President Amit Shah said, “Entire BJP stands firmly with Parrikar ji’s family. I along with millions of BJP karyakartas and importantly the people of Goa, who were his family, express my deepest condolences. May God give the bereaved family strength to withstand this tragic loss.”

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said Parrikar’s demise had caused immense grief. “His passing away has left a huge gap in politics; we have lost a good politician,” he said. “I express my grief and I pay my tributes on behalf of my party and myself.”

Parrikar’s career

Manohar Parrikar started off in the RSS when he was young and studied at the Indian Institute of Science. After the RSS approved his joining the BJP, he was elected to Goa’s Assembly in 1994. He became chief minister for the first time in 2000 and in 2014 replaced Arun Jaitley as Minister of Defence. However, he chose to return to Goa as chief minister after the March 2016 elections.

Controversies

In the months before his death, the former defence minister was at the centre of controversy when state leaders questioned why he was still in office despite his ill health. There was even a petition filed seeking a medical examination of Parrikar, which was dismissed by the Bombay High Court.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi had also mentioned Parrikar after what he claimed was a “personal visit”, and had alleged that the former minister told him he had “nothing to do with” the controversial Rafale jet deal. Parrikar had denied Gandhi’s remarks, saying that he was using their meeting for petty political gains.