In the wake of the terrible tragedy, the entire nation is mourning the untimely demise of Manohar Parrikar while remembering what a simple man he was. Being the first IIT’ian to become an MLA and a Chief Minister, Parrikar was a charismatic leader who changed the face of Goan politics. He enjoyed widespread support of Goans from all walks of life and was often regarded as the “CM of Commons”. One of the most admired aspects of Parrikar’s public life was his simplicity and his no-frills attitude. There are various instances where despite serving as the CM or Defence Minister, Parrikar refused to be treated with any sort of VIP treatment. Manohar Parrikar was known to travel by his bicycle to Goa Vidhan Sabha and refused all government benefits after becoming Chief Minister. He insisted on using his old Innova even after becoming the CM.
“Parrikar was known to shun the perks of the job”, said Mukund Kulkarni, BJP secretary in Maharashtra. He further stated, “Our families were close to each other. He used to frequently visit my house in Worli while he was the Goa CM. Around three years ago, while he was still the Defence Minister, he came to my house in a taxi. It was his way of knowing the city. While he was the Goa CM, he would often ride on his two-wheeler and stand in queues at airports and in weddings.”
Ravindra Sathe, a close friend of Parrikar, who heads Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini, a charitable trust, said, when he met Parrikar in February, his mind was as sharp as ever, although his health was in a poor state. “Over the years that I have come to know him, he was a transparent man, without any pretence,” Sathe said.
Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde lauded Parrikar’s commitment to his work and said he had lost a friend in politics. “It is a personal loss for me. He was the epitome of simplicity. We all have seen his photographs inspecting development work in Goa recently. I asked him why he was working and not resting; he replied he didn’t want to die in bed; he wanted to work till his last breath.”
Goa minister Vishwajit Rane said, “There cannot be another Manohar Parrikar. Despite being unwell, despite having tubes and bags attached to his body, he continued working. When a man who’s so close to death calls you into his room and says that he wants to carry on working, it becomes evident that he is somebody who thinks of the poor and people in general.”
Parrikar was known for his humility and his down to earth attitude. His heart was always in Goa and he is said to have accepted the post of Defence Minister in November 2014 after much cajoling by Prime Minister Modi, who wanted an honest leader to assume this role. When people asked him as to his untimely return from the Defence Ministry, he quirkily replied that he can’t stay away from Goan cuisine for so long. There are many accounts of his spartan sytle — security personnel seeing him arriving at the airport in a rickshaw, carrying his own luggage wearing rumpled bush shirts and chappals in north block. He would often mingle with people in public places like a common man without any fuss.
An amusing anecdote about Parrikar’s modesty mentions that he was traveling on his scooter, when he crashed into a swanky car, driven by a spoilt brat of some powerful MLA. The rich brat came out and bullied Parrikar, reminding him of his father’s ‘power’. To which Parrikar cheekily replied, “Look son, driving a car at such speeds is not feasible for you. By the way, I’m the CM of Goa.”
Extremely intelligent, down to earth, and very analytical in his approach.
I remember his funny line at the Pan IIT conference in San Jose in 2003: "Everything I wanted to know about politics, I learned it as the mess secretary of my hostel (at IIT Bombay)!'".#ManoharParrikar pic.twitter.com/yEWR4iVU05
— Amit Paranjape (@aparanjape) March 17, 2019
During the May 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Arvind Kejriwal, in an effort to gain popularity as “the common man” refused security and travelled by his own car. However, Manohar Parrikar is the true common man as irrespective of the election situation, he did not entertain private bodyguards and travelled by his personal vehicle, much before Kejriwal. When Parrikar was inducted into the Narendra Modi cabinet as the Defence Minister, he came to Delhi for the oath-taking ceremony and after that, he was briefed by the defence personnel about the Embraer jet he is entitled to as the Defence Minister, which is maintained by the Indian Air Force for VVIP squadron. But instead, Parrikar booked an economy flight on a budget airline back to Goa, dumping his executive jet. He did not simply project himself as the common man, unlike others. His actions did. This is what simplicity is.
Known as the man-next-door, Manohar Parrikar was one of the most non-controversial politicians in modern Indian politics. Truly being the “Rahul Dravid of Indian Politics”, he did not have any haters. People from all political associations respected and applauded him. Despite his long tenure in politics, Parrikar maintained the image of a true common man, clean, governance driven leader who served Goa till his last breath, exactly as he had promised.