Photographed with a history-sheeter and a controversial music event organiser, an embarrassed Goa tourism minister on Wednesday compared himself to Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan. The minister in question, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Dilip Parulekar, said that he, like the Bollywood superstar, had no control over who he meets or shakes hands with. “I was just being cordial. Shah Rukh Khan meets thousands of his fans every day, some may be even crooks who shake hands with him. That doesn’t imply that he is friends with them,” he told reporters in Panaji. A local daily, Herald, published photos Monday of Parulekar’s meeting in a secluded bylane of his assembly constituency of Saligao.
The photo showed Parulekar speaking to a local criminal with a long record of serious crime, Pravin Dabolkar, whose name surfaced in connection with the assault on Nigerians, and Harindra Singh, a controversial music event organiser. Harindra Singh is managing director of Percept Ltd., organisers of Sunburn, a popular electronic dance-music festival, which attracted controversy for reasons ranging from graft, licensing hassles and even deaths due to drug overdose.
Earlier this year, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar himself demanded an apology from Sunburn organisers for accusing the state government of trying to “rip us off” in return for permissions for hosting the event in Candolim, Goa’s busiest beach.
Parulekar’s meeting was held a day ahead of a key meeting of the state-level event permission committee (SLEPC), which decides on permissions to major entertainment events, among them Sunburn held annually in the last week of December. Three events, including Sunburn, promoted by Percept Limited are seeking permissions from this committee. After the photo expose in the local media, Parulekar now claims the decision of the single-window committee has been stalled for legal reasons as the matter was under judicial scrutiny. Parulekar said there was nothing unusual about the meeting.
The Opposition has demanded a probe into Parulekar’s links to the underworld in Goa. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alleged that BJP ministers in Goa were “cutting deals” using history-sheeters on the streets of Goa. “Parulekar is an example of how BJP ministers are using people with criminal records to strike deals outside office. Parulekar’s links to the crime world in Goa should be probed,” NCP vice-president Trajano D’Mello said at a press conference on Wednesday.