Panaji: BJP youth leader and former Speaker of the state legislative assembly Pramod Sawant, who on Tuesday was sworn-in as Goa’s 11th Chief Minister, assumed the top political mantle despite never having served as a minister in the state cabinet.
Much like Sawant’s mentor and immediate predecessor late Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was sworn in as Chief Minister in 2000, without every having served as a minister in the state cabinet.
Sawant, 45, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Ayurvedic Medicine from the Ganga Ayurvedic Medical College in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur district and has practiced as a doctor of alternative medicine in Goa. He has completed his Masters in Social Welfare from the Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, a deemed university in Pune.
Sawant has been elected to the state assembly on two occasions in 2012 and 2017 from the Sanquelim assembly constituency.
Sawant, a Maratha by caste, served as a Speaker of the state legislative assembly from 2017.
He rose up in the ranks in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) through the party’s youth brigade and was one of the younger BJP leaders who was considered close to Parrikar.
Speaking to media, Goa BJP spokesperson Dattaprasad Naik said that had worked under Sawant’s leadership, when the latter was the state president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, described the new Chief Minister as a “humble, down to earth person” who understood the aspirations of the youth.
“I definitely hope that people don’t start fitting him in Parrikar’s larger-than-life shoes. People should give him due time to perform,” Naik said.
Sawant’s wife Sulakshana is currently the state president of the BJP’s Mahila Morcha and his daughter studies in Class 6.
Sawant in his political career has generally managed to steer clear from controversy and was handpicked by Parrikar to assume the Speaker’s post in 2017.
Sawant, who is a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) volunteer, hails from the Sanquelim constituency, which is one of the key regions in the North Goa mining belt, where the BJP in recent times has found itself unpopular, especially after the state as well as Central government failed to work towards resumption of mining operations, which were banned by the Supreme Court last year.
Apart from his proximity to Parrikar and the fact that he has been with a member of the BJP for a long spell of time — unlike several other sitting MLAs — Sawant’s lineage as an MLA from the mining belt, was one of the reasons why he was picked by party seniors, according to a BJP leader, who was involved in the process of selecting the chief minister candidate.
“Apart from choosing a Chief Minister from the cadre, we also had to send a signal to the mining regions, which have been severely impact by the mining ban, that we are serious about their concerns. We hope that this outreach will convince them to vote for the BJP during the Lok Sabha and assembly bypolls,” the BJP leader requesting anonymity said.
It is perhaps ironic that Sawant, an alternative medicine professional has succeeded Parrikar, who died after suffering from pancreatic cancer for over a year.
Whether he will actually be able to fill in Parrikar’s larger than life and trademark sandals, remains to be seen.