Manohar Parrikar was India's first IIT-qualified Chief Minister. But that description doesn't capture even a fraction of his achievements. He used his natural brilliance to serve the country, first as a committed grass-roots volunteer, then as four-time popular Chief Minister of Goa and finally contributed to strengthening India's national security as Defence Minister between November 2014 and March 2017.
Nitin Gokhale, one of South Asia's leading strategic and defence analysts, became acquainted with Parrikar quite by accident during the latter's stint in New Delhi, but by sheer coincidence the two became very close friends. This book is as much a personal tribute by the author to his friend, as an honest attempt to capture the persona of Parrikar the man,the politician and patriot. Through the eyes of his family, friends and countless admirers the book dwells deep into his early influences, his journey from a small village in Goa to one of the highest posts in the country.
Nitin A. Gokhale is a media entrepreneur, strategic affairs analyst and author of more than half a dozen books on military history, insurgencies and wars.
One of South Asia's leading strategic analysts, Gokhale started his career in journalism in 1983. In the past 37 years, he has led teams of journalists across print, broadcast and web platforms besides working in media organisations such as Outlook and NDTV, among others.
A specialist in conflict coverage, Gokhale has lived and reported from India's North-east for 23 years, been on the ground at Kargil in the summer of 1999 and also brought us live reports from Sri Lanka's Eelam War IV between 2006-2009 besides numerous on-ground forays to India's distant land and marine borders.
An alumni of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Hawaii, Gokhale now writes, lectures and analyses security and strategic matters in Indo-Pacific and travels regularly to China, Europe, South and South-East Asia to take part in various seminars and conferences.
Gokhale is also a popular visiting faculty at India's Defence Services Staff College, the three war colleges, India's National Defence College, College of Defence Management and the IB's intelligence school. He now owns and runs two important portals, bharatshakti.in and StratNewsGlobal.com
It is nearly two years since Manohar Parrikar passed away, on 19 March 2019, battling cancer. The dominant memory that his friends, family and people of Goa have of Parrikar is not of the cancer patient but that of a brilliant mind, excellent administrator, popular politician and a simple human being. That he didn't let adversity dampen his spirit or his zeal to work for the development of Goa was evident till the very end.
In December 2018 for instance, a frail looking Parrikar, a tube inserted in his nose and barely recognisable as a handsome but simply attired Chief Minister, visited the site of the construction of the third bridge over River Mandovi. Even as the deadly disease was gnawing away at his vitals, Parrikar was more concerned about the completion of a bridge that had been conceptualised as soon as he became Chief Minister of Goa for the fourth time, in March 2017.
Many of his political opponents had criticised the visit, terming it variously as a 'photo opportunity', as a `tamasha', but Parrikar was unfazed. For him, nothing could come between him and the welfare of the people of his beloved Goa. For nearly three decades, Parrikar-the first IIT-ian to become Chief Minister-rode the state's political arena like a colossus. Whether in power or out of it, Goa's political discourse since the early 1990s revolved around this engineer-entrepreneur-social worker-politician. As I have always said, Parrikar was a simple man, but not a simpleton.
His elevation as India's Defence Minister in November 2014 was a pleasant surprise. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's choice to head the vital ministry was an inspired decision. Parrikar had already built a reputation as an honest, hard-working and innovative administrator. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) however, needed more than an honest politician. So why did Prime Minister Modi choose Parrikar? He did so because Parrikar had a technical and analytical bent of mind and had the ability to quickly grasp the intricacies of the MoD's functioning.
Throughout his 28-month stint in the South Block, Parrikar did not disappoint. He not only grasped complexities of defence procurements but personally led changes that have resulted in transparent and simpler defence acquisition procedures. Many of the innovative ideas that Parrikar proposed have been gradually incorporated in India's defence purchase policies since then.
That political compulsions forced him to go back to Goa after a short tenure as Defence Minister is something that will forever remain a regret for those who watch the defence sector in India but even in the limited time he spent in the MoD, Parrikar has left an indelible mark. I, for one, learnt immensely from our brief but very close association during his time in Delhi. As you will read in subsequent pages, we did not know each other until January 2015 but some common interests-military matters and a fondness for reading, for instance-brought us very close.
So it was with great pleasure that I agreed to a proposal from the Government of Goa to write this biography of Manohar Parrikar. Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant was very clear on what he wanted: An overview of Parrikar's immense contribution to nation-building and, more importantly, his service to the Goan society.
Without help from Parrikar's friends, political colleagues, ordinary citizens and, of course, his close associates, this would not have been possible. It is impossible to name all the people who came forward with their memories of and opinions about Parrikar, but some deserve special mention. Foremost is Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, in many ways Parrikar's immediate political successor; Upendra Joshi, his close aide during Parrikar's stints both as Chief Minister and Defence Minister (Joshi continues in that role even with Sawant); the Parrikar family, especially his elder sister Jyoti; close friends from his early days in Mumbai and Goa RSS; many industrialists, military officers, Department of Information, Government of Goa for the collection of photographs and bureaucrats. I can't thank all of them enough.
In November 2014, when Manohar Parrikar became India's Defence Minister, I was at a loose end, having quit as Security and Strategic Affairs Editor of NDTV (the Indian broadcasting network). I was not really eager to follow what he was doing since I had my own future to contemplate. From December 2014 to January 2015, I was taking it easy, having pledged to myself that I would only work for myself; no jobs henceforth. Meanwhile, Parrikar, from all newspaper accounts, was finding his feet in the Ministry of Defence. Because of my extant status, I had not felt the need to seek an appointment with him. In any case, I had no occasion to either meet him or know him because all my years in journalism since 1983 had been spent in India's Northeast or in Delhi, never in Maharashtra or western India.
Yet we were destined to meet and become thick friends, albeit very briefly. Our first conversation began with a misunderstanding. In January 2015, I was in Baroda when an 'unknown' number flashed on my mobile. Thinking it was a friend from abroad whose number normally didn't show up, I greeted him exuberantly expecting a similar response. Instead, the voice on the other end said, 'This is Manohar.' Puzzled, I rather curtly asked: Who Manohar?' Parrikar,' the caller added. The penny dropped.
It was India's Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. He had personally called. From his own mobile. No PA, no exchange, nobody holding the line. He had simply dialled directly. 'I want to meet you,' he said in a matter-of-fact tone after I had apologised for being slightly rude in my initial reaction. `Don't say sorry. We have never spoken before and my number doesn't flash. How would you know who is calling,' Parrikar pointed out and immediately put me at ease. I told him I was away and would return to Delhi in the next couple of days. 'Done. Let's have lunch on Sunday. I am staying in Kota House. Please come there around 12.30,' Parrikar told me. My obvious question was, 'Who should I be in touch with?' `No one. You call me. Please note my number.' And just like that, my short but memorable association with Manohar Parrikar began.
I was puzzled and, to be honest, flattered that India's Defence Minister wanted to meet me. I was also intrigued because at that point in time, I was not an important editor or an influential journalist, yet he wanted to meet me. 'What could he possibly want from me,' I kept thinking over the next two days. Parrikar had not mentioned any agenda or subject for our meeting.
Hours before going to Kota House-the Naval facility where he was staying, since a Lutyens zone bungalow was yet to be allotted to Parrikar-I typed out a one-page suggestion sheet in bullet points, highlighting what I thought were the key issues in the Ministry of Defence.
At Kota House, I was ushered straight into his suite. A smiling Parrikar, dressed as usual in his trademark open bush shirt and trousers, instantly put me at ease. I had heard many good things about his simplicity, his open approach. In fact, my friend Tejas Mehta, who was then the Mumbai bureau chief of NDTV, had specifically asked me to meet Parrikar in November 2014 when he took over as Defence Minister, mentioning that he was very approachable. All this came back to my mind in a flash as we sat down.
After a moment of awkward silence on my part, I tentatively offered him the one-page sheet I had typed out. After spending two-three minutes reading it, Parrikar said, Good suggestions. And I am already working on some of them. But tell me, why does the MoD function on a principle of mistrust? Taken aback at the rather direct remark, I asked him to elaborate. 'In these 2-3 months that I have been here, the most striking aspect I noticed is the all-pervasive atmosphere of suspicion. Everyone is looking over his or her own shoulders. There is very little coordination; the overwhelming tendency is to first say no to everything; a visibly agitated Parrikar explained.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Art & Culture (792)
Emperor & Queen (493)
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