Manohar Parrikar, a common man's minister

Late Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who breathed his last on Sunday will always be remembered for his spartan lifestyle and common man approach as he ruled a state known as a glitzy tourist destination.

There was a time when 63-year-old Parrikar was talked about as a successor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even when he headed the secretive defence ministry, Parrikar was a common man's minister, meeting people of all hues and all denomination.

Whether in his home-state Goa or in Parliament, Parrikar was often spotted in his trademark half-sleeve shirt hanging loose and carrying thriller novels along.

Parrikar was born on December 13, 1955, in the bustling market town of Mapusa in the then Portuguese Goa. He completed his school education in Marathi and went on to graduate in metallurgical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai in 1978.

While in school, Parrikar was a regular at RSS shakhas and had become chief instructor of the organisation for the coastal state. He had risen to the post of sanghchalak (local director) by 1989 when Goa gained statehood.

In 1994, 36-year-old Parrikar made his debut in the state assembly and first made his mark as an aggressive Opposition leader and was known to have dominated the legislative proceedings.

Over the years he built the BJP in the state and went on to become chief minister for the first time in 2000, giving a semblance of stability to a state that had seen 13 different government between 1990 and 2002.

From four MLAs in 1994, Parrikar was instrumental in raising the strength of BJP to 17 in 2002, that made him the chief minister for a second term. The victory also established him as the unquestionable leader of Goa, which he remained till his death.

Slowly and steadily, the technocrat-politician helped the BJP gain acceptability in the largely Catholic state, pushing the regional parties — Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and United Goans Party to the margins.

After the BJP's loss in the Lok Sabha elections of 2009, Parrikar did not hesitate in bluntly telling veteran L K Advani to step aside and make way for the next generation. His compared Advani to a “rancid pickle”.

Parrikar's grand victory in the 2012 assembly elections made him a formidable voice among the next generation leaders in the BJP and his close ties with the RSS added heft to his views.

In 2013, Parrikar emerged as Modi's biggest supporters and backed him for a national role at the BJP national executive in Panjim that year.

Though he enjoyed a clean image, a section within the state RSS disapproved of his support to the Church and was even accused of Catholic-appeasement at the cost of development in the state. Parrikar's stand to allow casinos and mining activities in the state earned him friends and foes in equal measure.

After the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Parrikar reluctantly gave up the post of the chief minister to become the defence minister, the first Union Cabinet Minister, under Modi.

In 2017, as the Goa Assembly elections threw up a hung Assembly, Parrikar did not hesitate to quit as defence minister to return to the state as chief minister. However, his fourth term as the chief minister did not hit the right notes.

In March last month, Parrikar was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had been in and out of hospitals in Goa, Mumbai, Delhi and the US. Parrikar has been forced to remain in office as crucial alliance partners, who keep the government afloat, have refused to accept anyone else as chief minister.

On the personal front, Parrikar lost his wife Medha to cancer in 2001. He is survived by two sons.

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Manohar Parrikar, a common man's minister

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