Monday, August 26, 2013

Innovation and challenge in Goa. And a historic moment for CM Parrikar

Goa, like any other state in India, is overrun with negative forces that create apprehensions about the future. But, unlike most other states, a positive spark flickers in Goa now and again. The state is so completely identified with beaches and hippies that neither the gloomy side of politics nor the hopeful signs receive the attention they deserve. Goa is more than tourists.

How many of us realise, for example, that Goa has a university and that it performs more imaginatively than any other university in the country? We are told that the Presidency University of Kolkata is ready to introduce a course on "The Enigma of Love" with emphasis on the "theoretical aspects" of love. Compare this academic drollery with some half dozen Research Chairs Goa University has established. The Bandodkar Chair on Political Economy, the D.D.Kosambi Chair on Interdisciplinary Studies and the Borkar Chair on Comparative Literature may appear routine. But two factors make the Goa University's approach anything but routine.

First, it has also introduced unusual and innovative courses: One on Western music, another on traditional music and bhajan, a third on fine arts, painting and cartooning named after Goa's and India's beloved illustrator genius, Mario Miranda. Second -- and this is the crux of the matter -- in a country where appointments from peons to professors are made on the basis of caste, cash and ministerial interest, Goa University got for its Chairs the likes of Madhav Gadgil, Romila Thapar, Meghnad Desai and Shuba Mudgal.

A near miracle. How could integrity be honoured so openly and repeatedly? Evidently the University's authorities put professionalism above caste, cash, etc. But they would still have been thwarted if they had to face political interference of the kind that happens in almost every university in our country. In Goa University, some officers more loyal than the King in fact tried to curry favour by telling the BJP Chief Minister that a Leftwing anti-BJP intellectual like Romila Thapar was being invited at the University's expense. Apparently Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said this was an academic issue and he could not interfere.

This is what makes Parrikar different from the rest of his tribe. In an earlier stint, he had succumbed to Hindutva extremists and done what was unthinkable in Goa -- cancel the public holiday on Good Friday. That was a major reason for the BJP losing the election that followed. Parrikar won last year's election with Catholic support; the Catholics were sure that Parrikar had learned from his Good Friday blunder and, more importantly, they were disgusted by the criminalities and shamelessness of Catholic ministers in the Congress Government.

Not only did Congress ministers and their families get enmeshed in murders and rape cases; the corruption went beyond limits even by Congress standards. It is a surprise that the High Command never attempted to curb the open criminality of its flag-bearers in Goa. Or was it a case of collusion? Not that the BJP is clean. Curiously both the BJP and the Congress today have exactly 33.3 percent MLAs each with criminal cases pending against them. But no corruption is as vulgar as Congress corruption in Goa.

A year into his landslide victory, Parrikar is grappling with the realities of power. Some of his campaign promises were clearly unrealistic: He is unable to abolish casinos, or save Goa from miners as promised. His voters will accept such dilemmas if his honesty of purpose is transparent. Actually, Parrikar has an opportunity no post-liberation Chief Minister has had. His educational and technological background attracts the respect of even his opponents as does his relative austerity. He is recognised as an administrator. To be recognised as a visionary, he must accept that the governance of Goa has to be in tune with its historical and cultural uniqueness, not with the one-size-fits-all ideology of this political party or that. To do justice to his state, he will have to rise above partisanship. Manohar Parrikar, the leader of the BJP, today has the chance to become the leader of Goa. He should take the call.