From IIT-Bombay to the union government, it has been a stupendous journey for the BJP's Manohar Parrikar. His clean image, administrative skills and personal integrity have propelled him into the top four of the Modi government.
In the past 10 years, I have made about 25 trips to Goa to report on a variety of stories. And there has been no other politician there who has left on me a greater impression. Parrikar - the first IIT graduate to be a Chief Minister - is not your typical neta. In Goa, many VIPs enjoy showing off their wealth: a plush bungalow, a fleet of SUVs and a posse of body guards.
But Parrikar's style was stamped with simplicity. Bush shirt, trousers, chappals. Two pens in his breast pocket. His waft of grey hair casually combed to one side. A quick gait, a no-nonsense attitude and a disarming smile. No fancy cars. No Italian marble at his house. No gold finger rings. Be it as the Leader of the Opposition or as Chief Minister, these quintessential traits never ever changed.
A ruthless administrator and a stickler for discipline, the bureaucracy and his MLAs rarely dared to cross the line. If someone did, then Parrikar let it be known that he will not suffer fools. And a dressing down was imminent.
During his last press conference as Chief Minister over the weekend, overwhelmed by the moment, Parrikar gave in. Teary-eyed, a lump in his throat, - the idea of leaving Goa had touched a raw nerve.
A workaholic who spends 16 hours a day at work, Parrikar isn't going to miss susegad - the relaxed, laid back culture of Goa.
But if there is one thing that he is not, it is diplomatic. Being frank and straightforward gives him the edge to clean up the scam-tainted Defence Ministry. But his brusqueness may need some restraint.
It's strange. Just a few days before the 2012 state elections results were to be declared, I recall it was late at night - Parrikar was chatting with me on the road outside the BJP office in Panaji. In about 20 minutes, a staffer came on a bike, Parrikar hopped on, waved me good bye and vanished.
And now, two years on, he is all set to be the Defence Minister of India.
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