Panaji: Missing for nearly four months and under fire from the Opposition and on social media for his continued absence, ailing Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday called up some journalists close to him, informally briefing them about his health and his plans to return from the US.
Parrikar, who is undergoing treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer at a New York hospital since March this year, made the surprise call on Sunday night to at least four local journalists considered close to him.
Speaking to IANS on condition of anonymity, some of these journalists said that they were pleasantly surprised when an Officer on Special Duty attached to the Chief Minister Office’s called them on their mobile phone telling them that Parrikar would like to speak to them.
“The first thing he did was enquire about my health, which is ironic because he is the one who is ailing. He sounded a bit weak, but Parrikar told me that two rounds of chemotherapy are likely to be done later this week and after that, his return would depend on his doctor’s clearance,” said one of the journalists, working for an English daily and covering the Bharatiya Janata Party beat.
Parrikar however did not disclose his exact location or the identity of the hospital he was admitted.
The journalist also said that the Chief Minister explained to him the protocol followed in examining government files and taking decisions.
“Parrikar said that he has a daily conference via telephone with the Chief Secretary and the Principal Secretary to the CMO. Files and documents are scanned and sent to him by email and fax and the Chief Minister’s decisions are conveyed over phone, fax or email. He said, that governance can be conducted remotely with ease in these days, thanks to communication devices,” he said.
Parrikar’s phone calls to the journalists come at a time, when the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government is under fire from the Opposition and civil society, who have accused the Chief Minister of holding on to power and not delegating responsibility to a cabinet minister to run the state in a hands-on manner.
Last week, the Congress also filed a police complaint, alleging that the Chief Minister’s email on which officials communicate with Parrikar was being operated in Panaji. The complaint filed by Congress’ Sidhanath Buyao with the Crime Branch, alleged that the Parrikar’s account was being misused by officials to take decisions in their favour.
Another journalist, who works as a Chief Reporter for a vernacular newspaper, told IANS that Parrikar regularly accesses his email and even complimented him for a news story filed by him last week.
“He congratulated me on the factual correctness of the story. He also assured me that he was feeling well and that thanks to treatment, his health was looking up,” said the journalist.
While official sources claim that Parrikar is suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer, neither the Bharatiya Janata Party nor the Chief Minister’s Office have officially communicated the severity of his ailment, vaguely describing it as “mild pancreatitis” in unofficial statements.