Having not only won the floor-test but simultaneously ridiculed the Congress’ contention that he would be chief minister for just 48 hours, it would be fair to assert that the BJP gained politically from Manohar Parrikar’s re-location from New Delhi to Panaji. It would also be fair and accurate to aver that the Ministry of Defence has lost little by that move. Although the Prime Minister had handpicked Parrikar for a place in the “big four”, the IIT-man has done little to leave a positive impression on South Block.
There would be many on Raisina Hill left wondering what made him so special that some of the smaller parties who imparted life-blood into the BJP’s power-game in Goa had made that conditional to Parrikar’s steering the showboat on the Mandovi.
True that no allegations of kickbacks were made when he presided over South Block: true also that few big ticket deals were forged during his tenure of some 26 months. The publicity-machine churns out reports of a series of acquisitions having borne fruit during that period ~ negotiations for all of them had begun before the NDA wrested power. To be fair, defence deals do take time to process, so it could be a couple of years before Parrikar’s moves take concrete shape: that is the nature of the job, there is no quick-fix to boosting the arsenal.
Other yardsticks, therefore, must be applied to measure the success of the former defence minister, and they do not prove flattering: certainly not as “vocal” as some of his belligerent statements, unless political angles are read into them. He never substantiated his charges about the vessel the Coast Guard set ablaze soon after he took over; his “personal” view on the no-first-use nuclear policy proved a national embarrassment, and he invited ridicule by imitating Gen. Patton’s line about heroes not dying for their country. Worse, he failed to prevent the BJP from dragging the Army into a political quagmire over the tactical strikes against terrorists’ launch-pads across the Line of Control. Though he did set up a series of committees on higher defence management, manpower utilisation, etc., no action followed.
Neither were the shortcomings in the Pay Commission award resolved, nor the grievances over the manner in which OROP was implemented. And the impact of the supersession in the appointment of the Chief of the Army Staff has yet to be fully felt. Parrikar might not have been the worst defence minister the nation has had to endure, his name would surely figure in a “negative” list. And that the Prime Minister has had to yet again revert to Arun Jaitley suggests that gung-ho bellicosity apart, the NDA’s “security assets” are thin.