Thursday, 26 February 2015

Silent witness of high palace political dramas

While going through my blog media newsletter I came across a write up about Jagadish Thakkar who is now PRO with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. You cant imagine my delight on this find which is rare by all counts.
A lot has been written about Jagadish Thakkar after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister and took him to 7RCR. But all this was woven around one theme that he is silent and it is difficult to get a story out of him. It is true. Only because of this reason my write up about this silent man is a kind of scoop.
Jagadish Thakkar is highly conscious about his interaction with media. He won't allow you to get anything from hism. I used to sit with him in press gallery of Gujarat Vidhan Sabha. In several sittings I could get some interesting details from him about himself. But not even a word about any of the Chief Ministers he had served.
He never allowed anyone to take hisphotograph. However, one day I managed this photograph from my mobile and ran this story on my website. But the story was lost in migration to different web platform since 2008 when I had written it. Here is the story as it appeared in March 2008 during the budget session. Even now the budget session is on.
I do not think that there can be better item for my new blog.

Jagadish Thakkar
The block number one of Sachivalaya in Gandhinagar has seen ten Chief Ministers in the last 22 years. There were many more senior bureaucrats attached to the CMO during this period which has seen many turbulent periods of murky politics ranging from struggle for plum portfolios among ministers to the famous Khajuraho episode, the first divide in the monolith of the Bharatiya Janata Party by its own man Shankarsinh Vaghela.
But all along these years, if there is one single person who has been quite close to the hot seat of power that runs the state is Jagadish Thakkar, Public Relations Officer to the Chief Minister. The low profile Thakkar is ubiquitous by his presence as a shadow to the Chief Minister in his all major public functions and mostly available in the CMO when the Chief Minister is in Gandhinagar.
At least for the last four years, I have been trying to find the secret of his survival in such a mercurial environment of the CMO where power politics is the other name of the existence. But, all in vain. Jagdishbhai as everyone calls him will offer tea and snacks, will use all his body language to express intimacy while refraining from the sensitive question. A touch of warmth only to signal that do not touch this subject.
Staff in the CMO calls him Dada. Most of the Chief Ministers have called him Jagdishbhai except Chimabhai Patel and Chhabildas Mehta who called him Jagdish. Something which he relishes when he recounts this fact. Keshubhai Patel used to call him Thakkar as per the tradition of Saurashtra region to which Keshubhai belonged. However, he also started calling him Jagadishbhai when he realized that there was another Thakkar in the staff and it created confusion.
And this is precisely the secret of his success. He sees everything and hears everything, but speaks nothing. Though he sits with journalists in public functions, he seals himself off all that might give wrong signals. With media his job ends with the taking notes of the event for writing of the press release of an event.
After much persuasion I could elicit only this statement from him. "I know the mind of my Chief Minister and I work accordingly. That is my brief". This is what he said when I asked him what makes a good PRO. The PRO must know about the organization and its objective, this is his general advice for becoming a successful PRO.
Jagdishbhai, basically a journalist who started his career with Lok Satta Vadodara in 1967 and later shifted to Saurastra Samachar in Bhavnagar joined the state Information department in 1972 as District Information Officer. From the day one, he has to deal with the crisis management and probably that is the reason that he is able to handle the crisis prone position in the CMO.
His appointment has an interesting tale. Though he had to take charge of Mehsana office, he was asked to report to Bharuch where the office had all kind of problem. There are many places in his list where he was posted to deal with crisis ridden position. And so when the then Director of Information P K Laheri selected him for the post of PRO for the Chief Minister Amarsinh Chaudhary he made a right choice.
He was introduced to the Chief Minister who uttered only one sentence. From tomorrow you will sit here in my office. And since then Jagdishbhai is an integral part of CMO. Though he retired four years back, he is continuing as PRO. In the last 22 years he has rose from the post of Assistant Director of Information to the Additional Director. But people know him only as PRO to the Chief Minister.
He started his career with Amarsinh Chaudhary. He is the first moving PRO. Until he joined, PRO used to sit in the Information Department and his job was more or less to issue CM's messages. And since then he is always on the move with the Chief Minister. He writes press releases of the CM himself. And for the journalists his copy is a great help in the coverage.
And as a good PRO he tells about his boss, the Chief Minister even if the other guest has a better point!
His assignments are a chronicle of the CM office. After Chaudhary, he worked with Madhavsinh Solanki who was reinducted for eight months. Then came Chimanbhai Patel followed by Chhabildas Mehta. His next boss was Keshubhai Patel who was later ousted by Shankarsinh Vaghela. After him came his confidant Dilip Parikh and Suresh Mehta and then after a full turn Keshubhai Patel again. And now Narendra Modi.
His present tenure is until February 2008. He does not plan to retire from the active life. He wants to write. Not the inner stories of the power game, but something social, something that makes people think and talk. He ran a serial on Doordarshan "Aghaat" for one year and now he writes one story a year- in the annual issue of government publication Gujarat.
Though he does not want to talk anything political at least with the journalists, he has a good repository of interesting instances of his life. Here is one that happened during the period of Navnirman agitation when Jagdishbhai was in greens of his career. He was posted in Mehsana on a quite a junior post of DIO.
Law and order situation was turning worse. A mamlatdar suggested that night curfew should be clamped to bring situation under control. But who should bring this suggestion to the notice of the district Collector and the District Superintendent of Police. Jagdishbhai suggested this to the bosses. They promised him to come back to him soon since the night session of the Radio was to close at 11 pm.
Jagdishbhai kept on trying to contact till 10.55 pm. Ultimately, he released a statement in his own name that the curfew is clamped in the Mehsana town. Collector and DSP were surprised, but Jagdishbhai had his explanation of deadline of the Radio. Subsequently orders of curfew were issued and in the morning both the bosses complimented Jagdishbhai for the timely response.
And from those days he knows how the government works.
His personal life is also quite interesting. Till the date he has seen only four films. They are Madhumati, Laajvanti, Mughl-e-Azam and Saara Akash. He is married. His wife used to run a school and also social service organization in Gandhinagar. Later, she opted for the social service only. Though, Jagadishbhai moves round a lot on official assignments, he has never gone out with his family.
Despite all this, he says he is a happy man with happy family. One has to believe him seeing him.

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