Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar breathed his last on Sunday, March 17, 2019, after losing his year-long battle against pancreatic cancer. As the news broke condolence messages flooded the social media platforms. Most of them pointed at his simplicity, integrity, intellectual brilliance, and more which all sounded true in his case.
He was a four-time chief minister of Goa, a Union Minister in the key ministry of defence, but he managed to retain the image of a common man, keeping the trappings of VIP culture at arm’s length. He even refused to change his attire (half-sleeved bush shirt and flip-flops) to a ‘politician’s jacket’ or the popular ‘bandgala’ during his illustrious political career or three decades.
The image of chief minister Manohar Parrikar riding a scooter to reach his office in Goa is etched in people’s minds. He even had refused to shift to the Chief Minister’s official bungalow and continued to live in his own residence.
Here are some facts about this rare personality called Manohar Parrikar:
He was the first IIT graduate to enter politics in 1991 and then become a chief minister in 2000.
He was the architect of the saffron party, BJP, in Goa, building it from a scratch and making it a force to reckon with in about a decade. In the volatile politics of Goa, it was common for the state government to die a premature death as elected leaders in the 40-member state Assembly would switch sides every now and then. The state would hardly get single-party rule.
Manohar Parrikar too became chief minister three times (in the years 2000, 2002, and 2005) but any of his governments couldn’t last full term. However, his efforts to expand the party base paid dividend when the BJP got a majority on its own in 2012 assembly polls. And the government lasted its full term, which was a record in many years.
In 2013, Parrikar organised BJP’s national executive meet in Goa and declared that he would support Narendra Modi (the then Gujarat chief minister) as the prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. His open support came at a time when there was an intense opposition to Modi’s candidacy within the party. But Parrikar’s announcement proved a turning point in firming up Modi’s candidacy.
In the middle of his term as chief minister, he was brought into the Union Cabinet and entrusted with the all important Ministry of Defence. The famed surgical strike in 2016 was carried out on his watch. He implemented one-pension scheme or OROP, which was pending for many years. He also focused on improving military’s fighting capabilities by inducting modern weapons. The process of Rafale deal was set off during his tenure.
In 2017, as his state Goa was going for a vote, the state BJP wanted his presence there to win the election. Manohar Parrikar too was reportedly to eager return home. He was said to be ill at ease in the (political) atmosphere of Delhi.
In February 2018, he was diagnosed with pancreatic ailment, but he refused to take rest and literally worked till his last breath.
He was truly a rarity in today’s world where politicians amass wealth by whatever means possible and then propagate this culture through their descendents. May his soul rest in peace.