Manohar Parrikar was a model politician. In his passing, India and Goa have lost a good son
Usually when a high-profile politician passes away, particularly in these times of over-sharing on social media, some people tend to reflect on the negative aspects of the person in assessing his legacy. Even if everyone might not share these anecdotes publicly, often gossip and innuendo make it to private conversations, particularly among reporters, who tailed that politician as part of their jobs. Manohar Parrikar, however, was not that kind of politician. Every correspondent, who spoke with him during his brief tenure as Defence Minister as well as the corps of journalists in Goa, mourned the man with nary a bad word to say. Because there really was nothing negative to say about Parrikar, who was a committed nationalist and a concerned Goan, who genuinely joined politics to make a difference instead of enjoying the trappings of power. There is no doubt that he was born to a certain level of privilege, being a Goud Saraswat Brahmin, and further cracked the hyper-competitive Joint Entrance Examination to join the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. But once he dedicated his life to politics, he became a model politician. He still used his Scooty, eschewing official transportation, travelled economy class and remained approachable and affable. Most importantly, he did use the media to build himself up as a man of the common people because he truly was an aam aadmi.
Despite being a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he had incredible popularity in a State where Roman Catholics form a significant proportion of the electorate and led the BJP to power. That was his pragmatism, a man who grew out of the RSS, became a technocrat and armed with practical logic and his love for Goan food, convinced the people that no ideology was untouchable provided it allowed common people to live and grow fairly. Despite being close to Nagpur, he went out of his way to be inclusive of minorities, tribals and OBCs. In that sense, he may have well laid the rainbow coalition template for the BJP. For the intelligentsia, which finds itself at odds with the current dispensation, he was the first IITian Chief Minister, who never changed his attire of simple bush shirt and trousers, and came much before the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Arvind Kejriwal brought in more IITians for a citizens’ movement. Many consider his elevation to the role of Defence Minister a reason the BJP did not do well in the last Goa Assembly polls, and in the confusion of the hung legislative Assembly, it was felt that Parrikar was the only man who could possibly lead a BJP Government. In fact, he is the reason that the party could not only consolidate itself, considering its scattered dots in the early 1990s, but could guarantee stability in a State that had become famous for its easy tradeoffs by politicians. This is already evident with the BJP compelled to create two posts of deputy Chief Ministers for holding on to its allies and not cede the turf to the Congress. Despite the first indications of suffering from a pancreatic disease, Parrikar went back to the hustle and bustle of running the small State. His tremendous work in developing a sleepy Goa — and he hated susegad — despite setbacks such as the mining ban, has propelled it forward as an industrial and tourism powerhouse. In the past few years, despite knowing that he almost certainly had a terminal disease, he kept working, swearing to the people of Goa that he would serve them till his last breath, and he fulfilled his oath. The building of the impressive Atal Setu over the Mapusa river outside Panjim after several years as well as the massive highway projects that will connect the small State, that is still hobbled by small, narrow roads, will always be his legacy. Unfortunately he could not stay for the new airport being built in Mopa to be inaugurated. This newspaper suggests that the new airport that should be opened within the next two years be named after Manohar Parrikar as a tribute to his incredible legacy.