Requiem for Manohar Parrikar: The epitome of virtue in Indian Politics

Dr. VK Bahuguna

(The author is a retired civil servant)

The Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar died in the evening of 17th march 2019 after battling pancreatic cancer for more two years. A pal of gloom had spread all over the country as soon as President Ramnath Kovind tweeted about his sad demise. The entire country is mourning his untimely death at the comparatively young age of 63 and outpouring of condolences from all walks of life including his political opponents of all shades started pouring. In an era when all and sundry join politics after failing in many ventures, Parrikar an RSS pracharak and a brilliant IITian was pushed into politics in 1988 when he was asked to join the BJP. Ever since he joined the politics he followed his conviction of becoming a true servant of people by practicing what he believed. He was a staunched nationalist, a true patriot with secular mind groomed in pure Indian culture of respecting the feelings of all religions and creeds without any trace of bias and hatred. His simplicity, humble nature, honesty, straightforwardness, and good ethics of governance including his no nonsense attitude in administering what he believed is necessary for the larger good of people was writ large on his smiling face all the time and always. People will never forget Parrikar the Chief Minister and workaholic presenting budget in the Goa Assembly on 30th January 2019 with a tube in his nose, wearing a cap and being assisted by his staff. He during his political sojourn exuded hope and unbound energy in his personal gaiety which made him immensely popular all over the country. He outgrew his tiny state Goa and became a colossus in Indian politics. He served Goa with full dedication and made it a very well administered state by setting personal examples like riding pillion on scooters, standing in queue in the airports, shops and collecting his own baggage from the airport belt and elsewhere are some of the high marks of his belief in disdainfully trashing India's VIP culture. He fought his pancreatic cancer which was detected in advance stage with courage and fortitude not seen in ordinary mortals and till his last breath was fully engaged in running the state administration. He was the saving grace of Indian polity in which many politicians have scant regards for probity and genuine welfare of people and the country. His death had created a big void in the country which will be difficult to fill up. Erudite and brilliant politicians like Manohar Parrikar with exceptional charisma are born 'one' in a century. And their brilliance saves the grace for their class and public hopes and aspirations moves around them rather on lesser mortals of their variety and the society moves on with the hope.

This author had a personal encounter with his simplicity and ethics in the year 2003 when Parrikar was the Chief Minister of Goa; when the then Environment and Forest Minister TR Baalu took the Ministry’s statutory body; the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) to Panaji for deciding the mining cases of Goa. This was a rare occasion when this committee held its meeting outside Delhi. This writer was the Member-Secretary of FAC by virtue of working as Inspector-General of Forests in the Ministry. The then Director -General of Forests and other members were taking dinner in the hotel garden in Panaji, when we noticed one informally dressed man coming towards us along with one of his colleagues and before we could guess who the person is he straight walked shook hand with all of us and said he as Chief Minister of Goa had come to welcome us to Goa. He was none other than Manohar Parrikar the Chief minister of Goa accompanied by his Forest Minister Tendulkar. We could never imagine that a Chief Minister of a state will walk in his Kolhpuri sleepers and his shirt over his trousers and bending over his sleeves and of course without the customary security of a VIP. He never talked about any proposal of the state and was with us for half an hour and took water and left.

Manohar Parrikar will be remembered for a long time for his foresight in turning the destiny of India's politics and that of BJP's by proposing the name of Narendra Modi in the BJP's September 2013 National Executive meeting in Goa as the party's Prime Ministerial candidate and after that it is history. As soon as the BJP won the 2014 election he was uprooted from Goa and made the country’s Defense Minister. 

As Defense Minister he was responsible for bringing professionalism, removing decision paralysis in procurement and transparency in the overall working of Defense Ministry. He will be remembered by ex-soldiers among other for allowing one rank one pension for the defense personnel. The Rafale procurement he very deftly handled including killing the note engineered by his then Defense Secretary and the deal was sealed ultimately. However, he will be most rememberd for providing astute leadership during the 2016 surgical strike by the army against the terrorist which he personally monitored.

His conviction as country's Defense Minister cane be best explained in his own words which he once said" I gave instructions to the armed forces personnel to shoot at any one possessing an AK-47 machine gun as it is obvious that they do not have any good intentions." It is this conviction that made Prime Minister Modi's task easy to conduct the surgical strike. His death is an irreparable loss for the country and more so for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party. It will take long time to fill the void created by his death.

Since his heart was in Goa always he went back ultimately in 2017 as Chief Minister. Apart from other achievements this four time Goa Chief Minister brought the Goa's Christian lobby in BJP's folds not a mean achievement and his charismatic personality was largely responsible for thawing the Aayaram-Gayaram culture in Goa for a while.

The entire country is in shock and tears on the departure of this prodigious son of India a rare gem born in the womb of mother India. Rest in peace.

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