As Union defence minister, Manohar Parrikar fought and won a blitzkrieg his generals in South Block would have appreciated. Moving swiftly after the March 11 assembly election results in Goa, Parrikar snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to form a BJP government in the state. He outmanoeuvred the Congress that had won 17 seats to the BJP’s 13. Six weeks later, Parrikar, in his fourth stint as Goa chief minister, finds himself fighting what the military dreads the most—a multi-front battle.
To begin with, allies outnumber the BJP in Parrikar’s cabinet—seven berths were handed to the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), Goa Forward Party (GFP) and independents. Less than two months after Parrikar assumed power on March 14, the euphoria is waning and his government faces real test—protests over rampant iron ore mining, the issue of shifting offshore casinos on Mandovi river and undercurrents of a tug-of-war in his cabinet.
Parrikar’s mettle was tested in north Goa’s Sonshi village on April 11 when its residents came out protesting against the environmental hazard from iron ore mining. The villagers complained that some 1,200 trucks were using the village roads every day to transport iron ore from the mines, kicking up clouds of dust and making breathing difficult. Sonshi is a tribal village of 60 families. It is surrounded by six mines operated by companies Vedanta and Fomento. Forty-five protesting villagers wer