Pramod Sawant, the incumbent chief minister of Goa, is set to return for a second term after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged victorious in the recently concluded Assembly elections. The party won 20 seats and a vote share of 33.3 percent in the coastal state.
The three-time MLA from the state's Sanquelim constituency is known for his quiet disposition, lauded by many for keeping his head down and getting his work done without fanfare – a quality that had reportedly caught the eye of his predecessor Manohar Parrikar.
The 48-year-old CM began his political career as a BJP youth wing leader and was a staunch supporter of Parrikar.
Rising Through the Ranks
Born on 24 April 1973, Sawant holds a Bachelor's degree in Ayurveda, Medicine, and Surgery from the Ganga Education Society's Ayurvedic College in the Kolhapur district of Maharashtra. In his hometown Kothambi, Sawant was a dedicated RSS worker in his childhood and later a Yuva BJP leader, according to The Indian Express.
Sawant rose to prominence in 2011 when he led a massive protest as the BJP youth wing president against the Digambar Kamat-led Congress government over alleged irregularities in the mining sector, reported Hindustan Times.
Discovered and groomed by Parrikar himself, Sawant then went on to win the Assembly elections in 2012 and 2017, seizing the Sanquelim constituency, previously a Congress stronghold.
Sawant is a former chairman of the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) set up by Parrikar to undertake infrastructural works in the State.
His wife Sulakshana Sawant is a teacher and was formerly the president of the Goa BJP Mahila Morcha.
Big Shoes To Fill
Sawant had considered Parrikar as a mentor and a 'fatherly figure', undertaking all state duties when the latter's health deteriorated. During Parrikar's final tenure in 2017, Sawant was elected as the Speaker of the state Assembly.
On 19 March 2019, hours after Parrikar died of cancer, Sawant was elected the 13th chief minister of Goa in the middle of the night amidst a political frenzy; disagreement arose within the BJP's allies over Sawant's relative inexperience.
According to The Indian Express, Sawant was seen as the 'obvious' choice by party supporters and the delay in announcement came as the allies were not convinced.
When Sawant took over as the CM, he had big shoes to fill. Largely credited as being the architect of BJP's victories in Goa, Parrikar was a force to reckon with in the state.
Sawant has proved his merit over time, successfully handling the growing dissatisfaction within the party ranks, a strong anti-incumbency sentiment due to COVID mismanagement, a failing economy, anger over suspended mining operations, and rising inflation.
Flak for Victim-Blaming
Despite a clean reputation, the Goa CM received flak from both the Opposition and social media users for blaming two 14-year-old girls who were gang-raped in Goa's Benaulim beach in July 2021.
Four men, who posed as police officials, had raped the two girls after beating up the boys they were with at the beach. The culprits were arrested later.
Responding to a question about the case in the State Assembly, Sawant had said:
"When 14-year-olds stay on the beach the whole night, the parents need to introspect. Just because children don't listen, we cannot put the responsibility on the government and police."
Days later, the CM clarified that his comments were taken out of context and that he was "deeply pained" as he also has a 14-year-old daughter.
(With inputs from The Indian Express and Hindustan Times.)