The first reaction to the demise on December 10 of Jagdish Thakkar, PRO in the Prime Minister’s Office, was of disbelief. He was a man for all seasons. He disappeared from our midst too soon. It is very difficult to forget his legacy — he stood as a role model for the newer generation of journalists and officials. I had a long and close relationship with him, and thus, the loss is personal.
The closest I interacted with him was for the nine years when I was commissioner of information (and broadcasting) from 2005 to 2014. This was the time when we coordinated media management for the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his alternative model of development. This changed the narrative for the Indian polity and media.
Every evening, we used to have tea together, before proceeding to analyse the events of the day which could dominate the news in e-media and the next day’s print media. Jagdishbhai would be very realistic. We used to visualise the next day’s headlines and the course of any meaningful damage control required. He was sharp, with brilliant observation skills as a journalist, and very analytical, too. Jagdishbhai was also a person who maintained friendships with diametrically different personalities. Officially, he was an additional director, but he was also a crucial part of the media management trinity, the other two being Secretary, I&B, and, me as Commissioner (I&B). Jagdishbhai was the golden bridge between the then Chief Minister’s Office and the field officials. He knew everyone by name, and this went a long way towards ensuring smooth coordination. Because at such levels, coordination can’t just be achieved by powerpoint presentations and meetings, it also requires an emotional connect with people at every level. Jagdishbhai also had the ability to draft press notes in longhand, always with exemplary news sense. It was a big challenge to meet the expectations of CM Modi, who was also the I&B minister — but Jagdishbhai proved a great trainer for many to understand and disseminate Modi’s vision and performance. He had great chemistry with many senior journalists as well — some journalists who will not write a word favouring Modi also enjoyed a good rapport with Jagdishbhai. We jointly planned, established and maintained a cordial relationship with media houses and media persons of all shades. His high quality communication skills with everyone immensely helped in overall interactions with the media. He was an exceptional media person who updated himself constantly.
Often, we discussed political and administrative matters at length. On some occasions, I can state, with all humility, that we interacted almost every hour of the day. His “management” mantra for youngsters was that the media can be understood and navigated efficiently, by being alert 24x7x365. His relentless pursuit of perfection can be summarised by the US President Gerald Ford’s doctrine, “Never be satisfied with less than your very best effort.” I think his ability to personally connect with people shone through more than merely his status as a public official. And that gave him a big advantage in departmental and media relations. He never shied away from praising deserving officers and journalists, and this positive approach gave him a special place in everyone’s heart. Jagdishbhai has gone, but his qualities and exemplary ways will be followed for many decades to come. May his soul rest in peace.