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All the chief minister’s men

RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR

IT is a general perception that Goa was lucky to have a chief minister in the form of Manohar Parrikar. However, very few know that Parrikar himself was fortunate to have a very dedicated, committed and loyal staff at the Chief Minister’s Office; many of these staff members serving him since the past two decades, or even more.

Upendra Joshi, an officer on special duty at the Chief Minister’s office was so indispensible for Parrikar that he was even taken to the Ministry of Defence when Parrikar was appointed as the defence minister by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Joshi, who focused on his work more than anything else, was a civil service officer in the state government. He came in contact with the CMO when Parrikar became the chief minister for the first time in 2000. In 2005, he quit the job and joined a private mining firm. After returning as the chief minister in 2012, Parrikar, who knew Joshi’s calibre, ensured that Joshi joined the CMO. Joshi became the right hand of Parrikar when the popular leader was diagnosed with pancreatic ailment and had to be moved from one hospital to another. When Parrikar was being treated in a New York-based health facility, Joshi made several rounds of the US and helped Parrikar in his administrative duties. Joshi had established excellent network with the bureaucrats and departmental heads, and ensured that the administration ran smoothly, during the final months of Parrikar.

Rupesh Kamat, who worked as the private secretary of Parrikar, was in the core team of the former chief minister since 2005. He started working with Parrikar, during his tenure as the leader of the opposition from 2005. Kamat initially helped Parrikar with the assembly questions. Kamat has seen the workaholic side of Parrikar, when he was busy in work to the extent of ignoring his meals. He was also witness to the uneasiness of Parrikar after he became the defence minister and could not interact much with public, due to the restrictions on him. Kamat, during the illness of Parrikar became the official source from the CMO, for the media. He provided health information about the former chief minister from time to time. Kamat also saw how Parrikar followed up the work of Atal Setu, in spite of his illness, and ensured that it was completed at the earliest. Kamat feels that Parrikar had a positive approach and believed that good things will happen. “If the same positive approach we adopt then his dream of taking the state and nation forward will be realised, which would be a true tribute to him,” he notes.

Manguirish Gadkar, who worked as additional personal secretary to the former chief minister feels that he has spent more time with Parrikar than his own family. Gadkar, who handled appointments of members of public with the former chief minister, perhaps faced most difficult task as large number of people wanted to meet Parrikar for various reasons. Gadkar also had to do a tightrope walk as Parrikar told him not to hurt appointment-seeking people. Gadkar, who became part of Parrikar team in 2012, when the popular leader was the leader of the opposition, was often seen with Parrikar from morning to late hours. An important feature of Parrikar to trust his team members completely had touched the heart of Gadkar.

Mayuresh Counto, special assistant to Parrikar for a long time; Sitaram Naik, an officer on special duty; Sanil Udeikar, additional personal secretary; Ajit Pawaskar, who functioned as personal secretary to Parrikar, before being shifted to the government department and Shailesh Ugadekar, who left the Chief Minister’s Office after Parrikar became the defence minister were other familiar faces in the CMO. Naik, who handled education-related matters before the CMO, was even sharing tweets of Parrikar on various matters including his festival messages.

Giriraj Vernekar, special assistant and Sanchita Rodrigues, press liaison officer to the chief minister were two of the CMO staff members, who went to Delhi, after Parrikar took over as the defence minister.

Two other people namely Shailesh Naik and Sunil Shetgaonkar, who were the personal security officers of Parrikar handpicked from the police department, remained with the leader till his very end. In fact, both of them joined the security team of Parrikar in 2000, when Parrikar became the chief minister. Since last 18 years, they constantly protected Parrikar day and night, sometimes working continuously for 15 hours. Many-a-times they had to bear the brunt of Parrikar’s anger, as the popular leader liked to be in the midst of the public and the security officers needed to push the people away from Parrikar. Today, both these security men feel that they have been orphaned due to the demise of their master.

If one considers the connection of Manohar Parrikar with all these individuals, it’s purely professional relationship. However, as one delves deep into their association, one finds that all of them had become the family members of the departed chief minister. It’s rarely that one observes such an attachment, especially in government sector, where power separates higher ups from lower ones. Parrikar was a rare person who changed this convention. It’s no wonder that tears still rush to the eyes of these people the moment name of Manohar Parrikar is mentioned!

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