Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has again caused a flutters in the BJP with remarks that the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat were a "blot" on Narendra Modi's career though he was not personally part of it.
The chief minister, known for making frank comments, has said that "administrative failure does not mean everything is blamed on one man, Narendra Modi. What happened then was unfortunate, but that does not require his apology, it requires his correction and he has done that."
As his remarks stirred a controversy, Parrikar, who had hosted the BJP national executive in Panaji this summer in which Modi was declared BJP campaign committee chief for the Lok Sabha polls, told the media today that he sticks to what he has said in the interview which he said should not not be read in bits and pieces.
"Read the interview lock, stock and barrel", he said.
The Goa CM seemed to be echoing what he had told the Indian Express editor Shekhar Gupta in his Walk the Talk programme a few months back:
Tell us your view on Narendra Modi. And why Modi now?
There are many issues in an election—the communal-secular angle, price rise, corruption. But I feel people today put maladministration or lack of governance as the first issue. And they feel price rise, corruption and non-decision-making are all because of non-governance. So the solution is to bring in a person who is capable of giving governance
So you think non-governance is a bigger headache for people than equity?
Absolutely. I am not saying equity does not form a part, but equity also is a small part of non-governance. In the last 10 years in Gujarat, there has been no question mark on this. Maybe Godhra is a blot. Human lives are very important and I am a strong advocate that violence cannot be a solution. I don't defend it.
Nobody can defend it.
But not defending it does not mean that you put the blame on a particular person. The administration collapsed. That was the truth of it. Everyone got polarised, including the administration. You don't have to blame only the leader. And Modi at that time had just taken over the administration. He may not have had that kind of a grip on the administration as he has now. The events were happening simultaneously. The media should be blamed for it too—they showed the charred bodies, I still remember.
But it was at least an administrative and political failure of the state government at that point?
I will put it is as a clear-cut case of lack of administration and a bad example of governance. This is my personal opinion because maybe he was hardly four months old (as Chief Minister). But after that, he has not displayed a single incident of non-governance.
But could it also be because he was angry?
No. I'll not say that because that is too much of a statement. So far, no one has been able to even indicate it, in spite of the Supreme Court's intervention.
Being angry in the sense of taking his eye off the ball. Like, 'thik hai, what can I do? People are angry'.
Sometimes that happens but I don't think that was the cause then. The main cause, according to me, was because he was very fresh. Today's Narendra Modi would not have even allowed it to happen. Because any politician worth his salt knows that violence reflects badly on him.
This is the closest any BJP leader has ever come to saying something went wrong in 2002 in Gujarat.
It went wrong. (Atal Bihari) Vajpayeeji said so.
...after Vajpayee, I should have qualified.
Everyone has said it is wrong. But I am not putting the blame on anyone.
You are saying that it was Narendra Modi's inexperience. He was very new.
How can you say that killing of 2,000 people is a good example of governance? But add to that one major point. After that one blot on the administration, there has not been a single incident that Modi has allowed until now.
Are you saying that Modi has learnt his governance lessons?
Obviously. Every experience counts. I am saying (the riots happened) four months into Modi's governance. What happened was definitely bad. Being new, he probably did not know how to take a grip on the administration. Unluckily, with all the emotionally surcharged atmosphere that was created...(the situation) went out of control there, including the police. Police down the line got polarised. The chief minister doesn't direct the police constable.
But it is for the chief minister to knock heads together.
He did it, but it took him time.
And by then, the damage was done.
But after that one experience, he has not allowed that to happen for the last 13 years. And I go by the basic logic that a person who learns from some experience...
...from a mistake or a failure....
I will call it a mistake...
It's a failure.
I will put it as an administrative failure.
And the chief minister is the head of the administration.
Logically, the buck stops with me if anything goes wrong in Goa, including a ferry capsize. As a matter of principle, the chief minister is the final authority. That I don't deny. But I think you have to take the positive part of it—that person understood what went wrong at that time and he corrected it to a level where it never went wrong again.
Since you were about the same generation and you are a Modi acolyte, have you and Modi exchanged notes on 2002? As friends, as chief ministers?
No, we did not have that much connection. But in 2002, during all that turmoil, it was our election time.
The Goa chief minister had created a controversy once when he had equated L K Advani with rancid pickle.In the above Walk the Talk programme also he had gone on to talk about leaders above the age of 65, which was also seen as aimed at Mr Advani: