Hardeep Singh Puri, BJP’s Man for all Seasons

The inauguration of the new Parliament House has been in the news for quite some time now. However, one person who monitored this ambitious project on a daily basis, and ensured that the deadline set by the Prime Minister, was met without any aberration, has preferred to remain away from the spotlight. Union Urban Affairs and Petroleum Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, has accomplished the task assigned to him by his Boss, and in the process has demonstrated that objectives could be achieved, once determination and intent became the motivating force. Yes, nearly 60,000 workers worked on pursuing the tight schedule but it was Hardeep’s overall supervision which also contributed to this modern-day feat. For someone who has spent 39 years of his working life as a career diplomat, this must have been a formidable challenge, which needless to say, has been overcome with considerable ease. Hardeep is easily one of the best performing ministers in the Narendra Modi government and has adapted himself to his new career in politics without any difficulty. He is amongst the most articulate leaders of our times, and if what he has achieved is any indication, he has a long way to go. Hardeep’s choice for supervising the entire operation was very apt, since he is extremely familiar with the city, and knows virtually every corner. An alumnus of Frank Antony School and later Hindu College of the Delhi University, he is familiar with both the turf and the people of the capital. Before he joined the foreign service, Hardeep also had a successful stint in student politics; he was the Prime Minister of his college and one of the best debaters of his era, something which is evident when he speaks or argues in support of his beliefs, as well as the brief he receives from the Prime Minister from time to time. Like Arun Jaitley, before him, Hardeep is someone the entire Delhi University fraternity is proud of. He has proved himself as someone who adheres to excellence under all circumstances. The Delhi University has produced many leading political figures, but those who have made it to the national centre stage after being active in student politics, are just a handful. There is Ajay Maken of the Congress and Vijay Goel of the BJP, to name a few but the list of the leaders produced by this university is very lengthy and comprises many distinguished personalities. During his long career as a diplomat, Hardeep always managed to leave his impression on whatever task he was assigned.
Having acquired many of his skills after closely watching former NSA and Foreign Secretary, the late J.N. Dixit, who helped shape his career, he has undoubtedly been one of the top most Ambassadors for the country. His role when the Centre negotiated with the LTTE Chief V. Prabhakaran is well documented. Not many may be aware that Dr Manmohan Singh wanted him to be the Foreign Secretary and his was the only name that originally figured in the panel. However, Shiv Shankar Menon, former Foreign Secretary and later the NSA, felt very uncomfortable with the choice. He managed to persuade S.M. Krishna, the then External Affairs Minister through his network of friends, to also include the name of Ranjan Mathai, in the panel. Mathai was later appointed the Foreign Secretary while Hardeep served in the United Nations with distinction as Indian’s permanent representative. After superannuation, he decided to join politics, a choice that was to serve the country in yet another manner. On Wednesday, at an interaction organised by the Sunday Guardian Foundation as part of the Capital Dialogue series, the minister, answered questions from an enlightened audience, comprising leading civil society figures as well as journalists. Needless to say, Hardeep outdid himself and left the gathering mesmerised with his wit, repartee and humour, without compromising on the facts and the unfolding situation. It is very obvious that he has a long journey ahead of him that could see him accomplishing many more objectives.

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