Manohar Parrikar - One of the finest (13 December 1955 – 17 March 2019)
By Rohit Srivastava
Corridors of South Block are not a suitable place for anyone who is simple, straightforward and believes in trusting people. One such person was Manohar Parrikar, the former defence minister who was at the helm of the affair of the Ministry of Defence for two and half years (November 14 – March 17).
Before his arrival in the national capital, Parrikar had an image of an IITian Chief Minister of Goa who drove scooty and didn’t wear shoes. He was always seen in a loose bush shirt, trousers and slippers. Something that irked many veterans, it this didn’t bother him a bit. He was certainly a misfit in the south block crowd but he certainly was not incapable of handling the complex affairs of the MoD.
Achievements of his tenure are proof of this.
In a small span of over two years, he did many things which his predecessors could not do. Most famous of all is the 36 Rafale aircraft deal. It might be the most significant deal which gathered good and bad press in equal measures but many of his decisions were probably equally important if not more.
He set up Sheketakar Committee for the restructuring of armed forces which has culminated in the recently approved Army headquarters restructuring. He deserves to be credited for the revival of LCA. He pushed for LCA 1A, an intermediate version between LCA Mk2 (Air Force demand) and LCA Mk1- basic version. Today IAF is purchasing 83 LCA1A. This has ensured that India will soon have its homegrown fully operational fighter. Not a small achievement.
The famous surgical strike of September 2016 took place during his tenure but he credited PM Narendra Modi's leadership for it.
Furthermore, the defence world did not have much hope from an outsider. His simplicity and honesty were not looked as a handicap for dealing with the murky world of defence. But under his leadership ministry came up with a DPP-2016 which had everything that industry had been demanding for very long. In many ways, DPP-2016 gave the firm policy framework for Make in India in defence.
His heart was always in his home state, and he went back leaving all the good works. His brief stint at the south block earned him love and respect from the masses. Probably his biggest achievement is earning love and respect from the whole of India. Something no one had ever anticipated to achieve as defence minister. News of his sad demise overwhelmed the country with grief, not seen since the death of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is a testament of his unique achievement.