Until some months ago, as Raksha Mantri, Manohar Parrikar, with his trademark fidgety eloquence, could explain the flaws in the LCA Tejas or confidently hold fort on the now-fabled surgical strikes against Pakistan.
However, Parrikar appears to have re-adapted to his role as Chief Minister of India’s smallest state, Goa, and in the course of his relatively subdued campaign for the August 23 Panaji by-polls, rising tomato prices appear to have replaced his discourse on the Tejas indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA).
And in place of the gung-ho surgical strikes’ narrative, the four-time Chief Minister now readily offers tips from his own experience to women’s self-help groups on how to hammer papad dough into soft patties to further their business.
Contesting a by-poll necessitated by his hasty return to state politics in March and subsequent resignation of Panaji BJP MLA Sidhath Kuncolienkar, Parrikar, a five-term Panaji MLA, is anxiously reaching out to his constituents in the state capital, whom he was forced to leave mid-way, when he was elevated as Defence Minister in the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led cabinet in November 2014.
Earlier this week, after completing more than 100 informal meetings with voters in the homes and parks of residential colonies, Parrikar was in his rustic element, as he addressed a group of women voters, several of whom run self-help groups.
And, as is Parrikar’s won’t, he offered a quick solution to the cash crunch faced by housewives, when faced with inflation, especially the rising prices of tomatoes.
Parrikar first explained why the prices of tomatoes shoot up in the monsoon, saying the fleshy essential vegetable rots easily and because the state does not produce the crop, importing tomatoes invariably means a bigger cost.
But he offered the fifty-odd visibly impressed audience a simple solution to beat tomato prices, which after scaling a high of Rs 100 per kg, have now stablised at Rs 45.
“In reality there is a simple way (to avoid tomatoes). On a day that you do not have tomatoes at home, use more onions,” Parrikar said.
The Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay alumnus further explained that no matter how much inflation shoots, the eventual setback to a household’s budget is in the range of Rs 200 to Rs 250.
“When I say tomatoes, no one buys 10 kg of tomatoes for consumption. For household use, people normally buy one kg, half a kg or 400 gm, depending on the size of the family,” Parrikar said.
“People buy more onions. From two kg to five kg. Again that depends on the (size of the) family. Today’s families can utilise two kg onions for almost a month. Why am I saying this? When I calculated all details of inflation, I realised that, however much inflation rises, the difference (to the household’s budget) is Rs 200 to Rs 250,” he said, adding that his government had, in the past, offered schemes like the Griha Adhar Yojana to housewives and more such measures could be on the anvil in the future.
Parrikar, who did his bachelors in metallurgical engineering, also dipped into his childhood to explain to representatives of women’s self-help groups at the BJP state party office on Wednesday about the significance of kneading the perfect dough to manufacture quality papads, which he said are a good financial incentive for small collectives.
“I am telling you papad-making is in demand. You don’t have to roll a papad nowadays. All that matters is your skill at hammering (the dough) and adding the right amount of spices. That is all you need to know, the rest of the work can be done by the machine. When I was small, I also hammered dough,” Parrikar said.
Another business idea Parrikar offered the self-help groups was making of “dronns”.
No, he wasn’t referring to the hi-tech, armed, unmanned aerial vehicles he had lined up to procure during his August 2016 visit to the US as Defence Minister, but to cups made of compacted, dry leaves referred to as dronns in Konkani, Goa’s native tongue.
“Simple dronns are in demand. All you need to do is press them on a machine,” Parrikar said.