Panaji: The controversial official gazette notification axing of Gandhi Jayanti from the Goa government-endorsed list of “commercial and industrial” holidays, which has sparked nationwide outrage, was issued when Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was still holding the reins of the state government.
The Goa government’s official gazette, which published the notification was issued on 18 September, 2014, a good two months before Laxmikant Parsekar took over as the state’s Chief Minister, following Parrikar’s elevation to the Union Cabinet.
“Parsekar has now said that the notification was a result of a mistake or mischief. If it is an error, will the state government now take action against the person responsible for it? And if it is mischief, is he acknowledging that the mischief occurred during Parrikar’s tenure as Goa chief minister?” Congress spokesperson Durgadas Kamat told Firstpost.
Parsekar was sworn in as chief minister of Goa on 8 November last year, after Parrikar, who has held the reins of state since March 2012, resigned from the position.
The September 2014 notification has suddenly became a subject of national outrage on Sunday, with the Congress accusing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of insulting the Father of the Nation and denigrating his image.
While state BJP leaders have been dodging reporters on the issue through the day, Parsekar on late Sunday brushed aside the controversy saying he had not made any such decision.
“If any such decision is to be taken, the file has to come to me. I have been here for four months, I haven’t got any such decision,” Parsekar said, even suggesting that the website of the concerned department which released the notification could have been hacked.
“The government has no intention of dropping Gandhi Jayanti as a holiday. If it has happened it was either by mistake or due to mischief by the Congress. There is an election (Zilla Panchayat) election in Goa, the Congress will go to any level to create a controversy,” Parsekar told reporters in Panaji.
Incidentally, while dropping Gandhi Jayanti as a holiday, the notification adds an additional holiday on occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi on 18 September, making it two holidays in a row for the religious occasion.
The Congress has also linked the axing of the Gandhi Jayanti holiday to the powerful casino industry operating in Goa, which the Opposition party claims, is behind the state government’s decision to cancel the 2 October holiday.
Closure of casinos even for a day, Kamat claims, causes a loss of crores of revenue to the five onshore and dozen-odd onshore casinos operating in Goa.
“It is only because we insisted that casinos be closed on Gandhi Jayanti last year, that Parrikar, as chief minister, ordered their closure. This time the casino lobby wanted to get rid of the holiday itself and therefore the holiday was knocked off,” Kamat said.
This is not the first instance of the Parrikar-Gandhi Jayanti combo triggering uproar.
“It seems like Parrikar is at it again. During his first stint as chief minister, Parrikar had cancelled government holidays on Gandhi Jayanti, Good Friday and on the feast of St. Francis Xavier and now this,” says Congress MP Shantaram Naik.
In 2001, shortly after assuming charge as the chief minister of Goa for the first time, the Parrikar-led government had issued a similar notification dropping Gandhi Jayanti and Good Friday from the list of official holidays, triggering protests in Goa, especially amongst the Christian community, which accounts for 26 percent of the state population.
In view of the civil dissent against the decision, the notification was kept in abeyance and then subsequently withdrawn.
Incidentally, Parrikar, through his 2001 notification had stolen a march on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by making it mandatory for bureaucrats to clean their office premises on Gandhi Jayanti, 12 years before Modi launched his ‘Swachch Bharat’ campaign in 2014, which also requires government servants to clean their offices and the area around it.
Naik now has insists, that an insult to the Father of the Nation demands a statement from Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Parliament.
“Since it is a question which involves Mahatma Gandhi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh should make a statement,” Naik has demanded.