I had an opportunity to work closely with RR Patil for seven years. I was the secretary of departments he headed-home and rural development.
I should say I was pretty much impressed by his way of functioning-whether it was handling the government department and political management.
A down to earth person who came from humble background, RR would often come across as a soft speaking, courteous politician who would treat everybody with respect. However, at the same time, he was a hardcore politician who knew the pulse of the people. He knew what he wanted to do, how he would manage the same and what his party needed.
Politicians do have their political agenda which they try to implement once they are in power. If their ideas are not practical or difficult to implement, there is bound to be friction between them and the bureaucracy which is supposed to handle the implementation of their decisions. This is where RR's skills were visible.
He respected bureaucracy. In public he would never let his officers down though privately he would have different opinion. He was always open to discussion and would listen to the viewpoints of others. He knew how to strike a balance between the political agenda and the government's duties.
A case in point was the dance bar ban which was a tough call for the government. Though he was being criticized for it, RR was convinced that he was doing the right thing. He would often refer to the exploitation of women in the dance bars. It was his conviction and he stuck to his guns in the face of criticism.
He was absolute politician, often a step ahead of many others. He was a good strategist and could anticipate the impact of his decisions.
He had equations across the partylines. On several occasions, while we in the administration were wondering about how getting a particular decision cleared in state cabinet or getting a bill passed in the assembly, RR would handle the political management well. "You don't worry about that. I will handle it," he would say and work the phone. We could see the impact later. Whether it was convincing the allies or reaching out to opposition, RR knew how to do it.
He came from poor background and never forgot where his roots were. And probably that was why he would never budge from his stand after taking a decision. He belonged to a tribe of politicians that should be emulated.
(Chandra Iyengar is retired IAS officer who served as home secretary and rural development secretary during RR Patil's tenure. She is currently, Chairperson of Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission.)