Par­rikar, Rane and the Rafale ‘Files’

Be­sides be­ing an em­bar­rass­ment for the Par­rikar gov­ern­ment, the au­dio clip episode may also dent Rane’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer

India Today - - STATES - By Ki­ran D. Tare

When he de­fected from the Con­gress to join the BJP in 2017, health min­is­ter Vish­wa­jeet Rane told Manohar Par­rikar that he revered the chief min­is­ter like his fa­ther. Since then, how­ever, Rane has played spoil­sport for the ail­ing CM. Last Novem­ber, he re­vealed de­tails of Par­rikar’s pan­cre­atic can­cer much to the BJP’s em­bar­rass­ment. He’s in the soup again thanks to a leaked record­ing in which he’s heard claim­ing that Par­rikar had said he could not be asked to step down be­cause the files per­tain­ing to the pur­chase of Rafale jets were in his bed­room.

An au­dio clip re­leased by the Con­gress on Jan­uary 3 pur­port­edly has Rane dis­cussing a state cab­i­net meet­ing that took place some two months ago with a lo­cal jour­nal­ist. “The CM made a very in­ter­est­ing state­ment,” he says, claim­ing that Par­rikar said that he had all the Rafale files in his bed­room. “You can ac­tu­ally make a story and... cross-check with your source in the cab­i­net,” Rane al­legedly told the jour­nal­ist. “It means he is hold­ing them (the BJP) to ran­som. He said he has each and ev­ery doc­u­ment of Rafale with him. Whether he wants some­one to in­form Delhi I don’t know,” he’s heard say­ing.

Con­gress pres­i­dent Rahul

Gandhi raised this in the Lok Sabha the same day. Both Rane and Par­rikar de­nied that any such con­ver­sa­tion had taken place. While Par­rikar said that noth­ing on Rafale was dis­cussed at the said meet­ing, Rane claimed that the au­dio clip had been doc­tored to frame him.

Town plan­ning min­is­ter Vi­jai Sarde­sai, who was present at the meet­ing, re­fused to com­ment on the is­sue, say­ing that re­veal­ing de­tails of a cab­i­net meet­ing would be a breach of se­crecy. How­ever, some BJP lead­ers be­lieve that Par­rikar must have said some­thing in­for­mally on Rafale be­fore the meet­ing started. It was the first meet­ing since his re­turn from the US in June. Re­count­ing this ‘in­for­mal con­ver­sa­tion’, these lead­ers claim that some­one asked Par­rikar why he did not speak on Rafale when the gov­ern­ment was fac­ing a tough time. Ac­cord­ing to them, the CM replied: “Modiji is han­dling the is­sue well. There is no need for me to in­ter­vene.” An­other BJP leader, on con­di­tion of anonymity, said he wasn’t sur­prised at Rane’s state­ment. “Par­rikar is known for mak­ing ex­ag­ger­ated claims. He may have said some­thing to show his im­por­tance.”

On Jan­uary 3, Par­rikar an­nounced that a foren­sic test would be con­ducted to ver­ify the authen­tic­ity of the au­dio clip. While of­fi­cers at the state po­lice head­quar­ters waited past work­ing hours, an­tic­i­pat­ing an or­der from the CM, it never came.

For­mer CM Laxmikant Parsekar, who has been sulk­ing since his op­po­nent Dilip Sopte was in­ducted into the BJP, says the clip is a mat­ter of con­cern and war­rants “a thor­ough in­quiry”. Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo, also an as­pir­ing CM, in an ap­par­ent dig at Rane, said there was a need to take se­ri­ous note of fall­ing tourism and health ser­vices. And the state Con­gress pres­i­dent, Girish Cho­dankar, sar­cas­ti­cally, sought more se­cu­rity for Par­rikar.

Po­lit­i­cal ob­servers be­lieve that any chances Rane had to reach the top post in Goa may now be over. He was in the race as a pos­si­ble re­place­ment for Par­rikar, along with assem­bly Speaker Pramod Sawant. But it’s also true that given his clout in four assem­bly seg­ments—Valpoi, Mauem, Sankhali and Di­cholim—the party will need him to re­tain the North Goa Lok Sabha seat. A des­per­ate Rane tried to meet BJP pres­i­dent Amit Shah in Delhi on Jan­uary 5, but all he got was a meet­ing with the Union min­is­ter for women and child de­vel­op­ment Maneka Gandhi.

The au­dip clip episode could hurt the BJP in the up­com­ing assem­bly by­polls in Shi­roda and Man­drem.

Any chances Rane had to reach the top post in Goa may now be over. He was in the race as a pos­si­ble re­place­ment for Par­rikar


BUSI­NESS AS USUAL? Par­rikar in a meet­ing at the state sec­re­tariat on Dec. 31, 2018

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