The Opposition Congress in Goa and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah have criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party after pictures of ailing Manohar Parrikar were released on Sunday. The pictures showed Parrikar wearing a nasal tube and inspecting an under-construction bridge on the Mandovi river in Panaji. He also spoke to engineers at the site.
Goa Chief Minister Parrikar has been suffering from pancreatic cancer since February. On Sunday, he made his first public appearance since his return to the state after being discharged from Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences on October 14.
Abdullah said it is inhuman to force Parrikar to continue working. “He has a tube inserted through his nose into his digestive tract,” the Nationalist Conference leader said on Twitter. “How inhuman to force him to continue working and doing photo ops. Why can’t he be allowed to deal with his illness without all this pressure and tamasha [spectacle]?”
The Congress was skeptical. “It is a stage-managed photo op,” Goa Pradesh Congress Committee President Girish Chodankar said. “Why were the media not taken on the visit? It is in bad taste. The coterie around him are just exhibiting a sick person to prove he is still active and thus cling to power. The ground reality is totally different. They really have no morality left.”
Congress leader Priyanka Chaturvedi also criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party after the pictures were released. “Is that a tube that is inserted in his nose?” Chaturvedi said on Twitter. “Can a party be so power hungry to make a man work despite his illness? With BJP impossible is nothing...to grab power, latch on to power. Take care CM Saab, because clearly, your party won’t.”
Chodankar accused the BJP of making a mockery of democracy and timing the exercise because of a court case in the Bombay High Court and the Congress’ Jan Akrosh programme.
Social activist and former Goa Forward Party spokesperson Trajano D’Mello had filed the petition in the Bombay High Court’s Goa division and demanded that Chief Secretary Dharmendra Sharma evaluate Parrikar’s health by consulting a panel of expert doctors. The Goa Forward Party is a member of the ruling coalition. The Goa government has told the court that a mere diagnosis of a disease should not be interpreted as a person’s inability to hold an office. Last week, the High Court reserved its verdict in the petition.
On Facebook, Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane lauded Parrikar. “Proud to have Parrikar as my leader, our prayers with him always,” Rane said.
On social media, the Goa Chief Minister’s Office received laudatory as well as critical remarks for releasing the pictures. Local newspapers too carried the story on their front pages.
In October, the Goa Chief Minister’s Office had released a picture of him chairing a meeting at his residence amid intense speculation about his health. The Opposition Congress has claimed that Parrikar’s ill-health has hindered the state’s administrative functioning.