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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Dr Pramod Sawant is a man of political destiny

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I must confess when I first heard Dr. Pramod Sawant was to take the reigns as Chief Minister of Goa five years ago, after the unfortunate demise of one of Goa’s most loved and respected politicians Late Manohar Parrikar, I was skeptical and not entirely confident about the decision taken by the BJP central leadership.

My doubt had nothing to do with a view on the aptitude, intelligence, and political prowess of Dr. Sawant as a person, as a professional, or as a politician. My self-created apprehension came from my deep understanding of the high-octave playing field of Goan politics that even sometimes a resolute man like Late Manohar Parrikar found it difficult to maneuver and manage. Goan politics is a dog-eat-dog show and you need to be an experienced fighter to fight to survive.

Also, more importantly, my Christening into Indian politics was done by my mentor Late Manohar Parrikar, so at times my prejudices of expecting Dr. Sawant to act in a situation like Parrikarji would creep in to cloud my judgment but most times I would rationalize the thoughts of comparison with the logic that Dr. Sawant cannot be Parrikarji but he can certainly grow to be a leader who will earn his respect through his governance and political maturity with time.

However, I was confident about one simple fact if the BJP central leadership and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had put their confidence in Dr Pramod Sawant then there must be a good reason for me to respect the decision and not let my inhibitions get the better of me and doubt his ability to fight his way to survive and keep the position of the Chief Minister of Goa.

I must now after five years of observing Dr. Pramod Sawant openly state that there are several decisions and statements that he has made in his tenure till now that I do not agree with and neither do I endorse but there are also many decisions taken in the interest of the state under his leadership that I appreciate and respect because some of those decisions were taken by a politician with a matured political acumen and a keen sense of purpose keeping in mind the interest of the people of Goa.

In my personal opinion, if I had to rate his performance as a Chief Minister of Goa, on a scale of one to ten, I would place him at a 6.7 decibel point. He has certainly got a tight hold of the stirring wheel of the political ship of Goa and steadied it through troubled waters rather confidently. He has turned the situation away from a dog-eat-dog political circus in Goan politics to let us not eat each other but instead work together to find the bones and share the bones amongst each other.

The one trait about Dr. Sawant that I like as a silent but sometimes vocal observer is that when he was forced to put on the gloves and get into the ring to fight for BJP and fight for Goa, he did not hesitate but learned to roll with the punches and wait for the opportunity to pull his knock-out punches using his learnings and training from the central leadership. He did not buckle under pressure then and his certainly not buckling under pressure now because, with tact and a patient strategy, he has decimated the opposition in 2019 and further gave them a massive body blow in 2022 again.

Dr. Sawant calls me his friend and as a friend, I also take the liberty to be his critic sometimes about his decisions and most of all his statements. Politics, I am learning is not only a game of roll of dice but also a game of cards. Right now, I see Dr Sawant playing more of a game of roll of dice and he is winning undoubtedly because of his political acumen and no fault in his stars but to grow politically he needs to also learn to become an expert in the game of cards. That’s when he will grow not only as a more powerful leader in the state but also as a leader of reckoning at the centre because eventually, Goa will become too small for him after ten years or so on the Goa’s CM chair, he would need to make a way to the center to represent not only Goa but also the country. And why not? If you can survive in Goan politics for ten years and decimate the opposition ruthlessly there will always be scope for that talent at the centre.

I have seen Dr Sawant mature not only as a political leader but also as a statesman and more importantly as a Chief Minister. One of his endearing qualities that I have noticed about him in our few interactions over the years, is that he has this good habit of making note of what you tell him, processing the information then, or asking for time to revert to you with an opinion but most of all solving a concern with his team at that point of time, if it can be solved. He does not sleep over an issue. He gets the work done if it is within his power to get it done. That to me is a marked trait of a good leader.

The road ahead for him is not going to be easy but I know that he is smart enough to know this fact. He has been cautious enough to carry his political team along with him, even though some of them could bring his government down in the near future on account of the over-ambitious cravings for the good things in life. And I am confident that he is also aware of this fact and knows that his survival depends on running a tight ship and keeping a handle on the over-ambitious nature of some of his colleagues because PM Modi at the centre has good plans for Goa as a state and wants Dr. Sawant to continue as the leader of the state with certain voluntary course correction in the months ahead.

Dr. Sawant has certainly surpassed the expectations of some naysayers who wrote him off very early in his role as the Chief Minister of Goa. There were numerous attempts to overthrow his government but he has survived because of his silent political astuteness and unassuming nature. He has Modi’s confidence and in the years ahead this will help him grow into a better political leader of Goa and India. The more he connects with people and relies on his intellect rather than the collective intellect of some of his questionable local advisors, who may not fully comprehend the potential of Dr. Sawant, as a future leader emerging out of Goa on a national stage and force him to think like a frog in the Goa well the more he remains playing the game of roll of dice and not a game of cards.

We do not see eye to eye on some issues and that is a fact known to him but I must admit that he does have a spark and it is this spark that keeps him improving. My only advice to him as a friend would be to surround himself with people who come from the core idealogy of the party, over dependency on political fugitives is akin to allowing termites space to enter into your home and slowly eat into your hard work and God forbid one day you would find that the chair you sit on and deserve to sit on, does not exist anymore. He must understand that his strength comes from the people of Goa and he must put them above all tugs from lobbies within Goa as well as some lobbies from outside of Goa.

Another humble piece of advice from me to him is that Goa is a small state. It is facing a debt trap. The state’s outstanding liabilities saw a 618 percent jump. In 2005, Goa’s outstanding liabilities stood at Rs 4417 crore. In 2023, it stood at Rs 31,378 crore. It is going to be the greatest challenge to minimize the state’s debt. This is not only a challenge but also an opportunity for Dr. Sawant to catch the bull by its horns and calm it down. Goa’s debt trap is a bull with sharp horns that can go wild in a china shop. It needs to be tamed.

I see Dr Pramod Sawant as a man of political destiny. He does not come from a political legacy. He has come so far because of the inherent values he has got from his humble parents. I have had an opportunity once to have lunch with him at his home and I saw the simplicity of his family and their hospitable nature. As a keen observer of politicians, to me, someone grounded in family values and upbringing matters and I believe they go a long way in their careers whether it be politics or any other professional job role. I am confident he will too.

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