Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar virtually confirmed his elevation to the union cabinet even as the BJP legislators are expected to meet Friday to discuss his successor.
While Parrikar is being tipped for the key defence ministry portfolio, one of the two held by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the 58-year-old Parrikar said he had been instructed by BJP president Amit Shah to accept any responsibility entrusted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Parrikar, however, told the media that the portfolio he is to get had not been revealed to him yet.
“Amit Shah told me to accept any assigment given to me by the prime minister. The second part is the prerogative of the prime minister,” said Parrikar, ending the speculation of his appointment as a cabinet minister.
Parrikar, along with state party president Vinay Tendulkar and organising secretary Satish Dhond, met Shah Wednesday in New Delhi, fuelling speculation about Parrikar’s inclusion in the union cabinet, which is set for an expansion Sunday.
Parrikar said the BJP’s parliamentary board, the highest decision making body in the party, would take a final call on issues related to cabinet expansion Saturday morning.
“On 8th morning many issues will be clear to you,” Parrikar said, adding that he was forced to address the media Thursday to steer clear of speculation.
Since Wednesday, Goa has been abuzz about the possibility of Parrikar becoming the first politician from the state, often considered politically insignificant, to be a full fledged cabinet minister in New Delhi.
Goa already has representation in the central ministry in form of North Goa MP Shripad Naik, who is the union minister of state (independent charge) for tourism and culture.
It has also been represented in the central ministry earlier by Ramakant Khalap and Eduardo Faleiro.
Cafes, bars, bus stands, the social media and other public spaces have been discussing the whens and hows of having Parrikar, a popular leader in Goa, in the central cabinet.
Parrikar, who said he had mixed feelings about his elevation, argued that the call of the nation was greater than that of a state.
Parrikar also said he had expressed his apprehensions about being elevated to central governance to Shah.
“One reservation is obviously because I am elected from the state for a five-year term with a popular mandate. Obviously my feeling was that unless I complete my term it is not exactly not right on my part to leave in the middle,” said Parrikar, who is chief minister for a third time.
Parrikar did not say much about his successor but said the appointment would have to be made before Nov 9 when the new ministers in the expanded cabinet are expected to be sworn in.
Party sources, however, said that in addition to three frontline leaders, the candidature of Shripad Naik could not be ruled out.
Forever playing second fiddle to Parrikar in his political career, Naik could be expected to relinquish his post in the union ministry and take charge in Goa.
“This has to be time for Shripad to assert himself, especially in the absence of Parrikar,” said a supporter of Naik.
Naik has been the only organic BJP leader of some stature who has publicly dissented against Parrikar in recent times.
The other contenders for the chief minister’s post are Speaker Rajendra Arlekar, Health Minister Laxmikant Parsenkar and Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza.
Arlekar has solid Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) credentials and also enjoys the confidence of Parrikar.
One potential blip on his record, however, is a petition by a lawyer activist accusing the speaker of allegedly amassing disproportionate assets.
Parsenkar has been a state chief of the BJP on two occasions and like Arlekar has traditionally enjoyed the confidence of Parrikar.
On Wednesday, both Arlekar and Parsenkar said they were not actively gunning for the top slot.
D’Souza, who has avoided the media, has in the past been a rallying point for dissenting legislators within the BJP, especially the Catholic legislators.
He is also one of BJP’s oldest minority faces. While his inconsistent health is a matter of concern, his appointment as chief minister could help the party appease the state’s 26 percent Catholic population.