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Manohar Parrikar, the original 'aam aadmi'

Manohar Parrikar

Manohar Parrikar   | Photo Credit: S. Subramanium

Manohar Parrikar (1955-2019)

In a video clip from an alumni day function at IIT Bombay in 2014, the four-time Goa Chief Minister and former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar — who passed away on Sunday evening after a prolonged illness — is described as the “original Aam Aadmi”.

Dressed in his trademark half-sleeved shirt and floaters, Mr. Parrikar had an image of an accessible yet go-getter politician.

Mr. Parrikar’s political trajectory runs parallel to the rise of the BJP in Goa. He was born in 1955 in Mapusa in then Portugese-ruled Goa. It was only after Goa’s liberation in 1962 where the right-wing politicians played a pivotal role that the RSS took root in the State.

In the 1970s, a teenage Parrikar joined the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). After completing a degree in metallurgical engineering from IIT Bombay, he resumed working with the organisation. At just 26, he was Sanghchalak of Mapusa. It was the RSS that pushed Mr. Parrikar to the BJP to counter the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party.

Mr. Parrikar’s sangfroid self often hid the astute politician he was. In 1994, for the first time, the BJP sent four legislators to the Goa Assembly and he was one of them along with the current Union Minister Shripad Naik. The parallel run of Mr Parrikar and Mr Naik ended here. Mr. Parrikar soon outstripped Mr. Naik, who was the BJP State president from 1990 to 1999, to become the first BJP Chief Minister of Goa in 2000. Mr. Naik left State politics to become the first BJP MP from the State in 1999.

“Together with Mr. Parrikar, we built the RSS and the BJP from ground up. We built its cadre from booth level and would knock on each and every door propagating the BJP’s ideology,” Mr. Naik told The Hindu.

Once he took centre stage in the State, Mr. Parrikar never conceded the position to anyone else in the party. Even as the Defence Minister in 2014, he would often spend time in Goa, visiting it every weekend.

Inclusive Goa model

One of his political achievements was to develop the 'Goa model' of the BJP, positioning the right-wing party away from narrow Hindutva bracket to a larger and more inclusive Goan identity. He even managed make the Catholic Church a BJP ally in the State.

Mr. Naik describes Mr. Parrikar as a hardworking and “aggressive” Chief Minister — a description that the Congress leaders, who have been usually at the receiving end of his aggressive politics, would agree with.

“He was known for his manipulative politics. He kept files on every politician in the State, including those in his own party and the Opposition. His own Health Minister Vishwajit Rane was heard in audio tapes claiming that Mr. Parrikar has the critical Rafale files carrying critical proof against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This was nothing new to him,” Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Girish Chodankar said.

Rahul meeting Parrikar

In January, Congress president Rahul Gandhi called on Mr. Parrikar in Goa a day after tweeting about the “audio files” that he claimed gave the Chief Minister “powers” over Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mr. Parrikar, however, wrote a letter in protest to Mr. Gandhi, accusing him of using the courtesy call for “petty political gains” and to assert that no mention of the Rafale fighter aircraft deal had been made during the meeting.

 

Mr. Parrikar's close associate Sushant Nadkarni, who has been the advocate general of Goa for over a decade and a personal friend, describes the former as a workaholic, a hard taskmaster and a person who put the State on the development map of the country. And whatever differences he might have had with BJP leaders were only because he was “straight forward”.

“He sacrificed the post of Defence Minister to return as Chief Minister. Without him, the BJP floundered — from 21 seats they came down to 12 seats. It was on the insistence of the alliance partners that he came back to take the post,” Mr. Nadkarni says.

Mr. Parrikar also has the distinction of helming the 2016 cross-border surgical strike.

Lt. General D.S. Hooda, who was the chief of the Army’s Northern Command at the time of the strike, describes Mr. Parrikar as sharp and decisive. “I found him very sharp and quick in grasping the problems. He was equally empathetic towards a soldier's requirements. Often he would request us to let him speak directly to the soldiers, have a cup of tea with them to discuss their needs and requirements,” Lt. Gen. Hooda said.

Other Army officers say he rarely got support from the bureaucracy as many of his promises fell through.

Played a critical role in Goa party meet

Mr. Parrikar also played a critical behind-the-scenes role in the 2013 Goa National Executive meeting of the BJP, which saw the announcement of then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general election.

Veteran leader L. K. Advani stayed away from the meeting over the expected announcement. It ended with the announcement of Mr. Modi not just as the prime ministerial candidate but also as the party’s main election campaigner. Mr. Modi has more than once acknowledged Goa's role in his success and praised Mr. Parrikar while in Goa.

(With inputs from Nistula Hebbar)

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 1:12:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/manohar-parrikar-the-original-aam-aadmi/article26560963.ece

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