Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today recalled sage advice that she received from the celebrated former bureaucrat, B S Raghavan (who passed away recently) soon after she became India’s Defence Minister.  

Sitharaman recalled that Raghavan told her that the Defence Minister’s job would be particularly challenging. Not things like “border issues”, but “maintaining the harmony between the ‘uniformed’ and ‘civil’ arms” of the ministry. It was “very vital advice”, she said. She was speaking here at a memorial function for Raghavan. 

She said that while she had consistently received “a lot of actionable advice” from Raghavan even before she joined the government (when she was BJP’s spokesperson), the one advice that he gave her when she assumed office as the Defence Minister was particularly invaluable. 

Sitharaman said that not only did she benefit from Raghavan’s direct insights and suggestions, but also from reading his innumerable articles and columns. 

Because Raghavan’s many pieces of advice came from “a wise head and a heart that felt for India to move fast towards development, they were sought by many people, regardless of the political dispensation,” Sitharaman said. 

She said that even in Tamil Nadu most of the political parties sought Raghavan’s advice, adding that she used the word “most” only to provide deniability room for a political party that may not want to be known as having benefited from Raghavan’s counsel. Everybody sought his wise counsel because there was “never any prejudice, subjectivity, putting his personal interest forward or playing one against another”.  

Sitharaman also recalled Raghavan’s political whiffs when he wrote in 2016 that “India should make lot more efforts to rid itself of its colonial baggage.” She added that “he (Raghavan) felt that it was an opportunity missed out since the first prime minister” and that “we did not do enough to remove the colonial hangover that is still bothering out administration, our systems, our laws, our bureaucracy.”  

Praising Raghavan’s acute intellect, S Gurumurthy, Editor, Tuglaq, said that it is necessary to highlight the good qualities of great people like Raghavan, because “today all kinds of people are projected as great leaders.” 

Senior advocates Arvind Datar and N L Rajah, former Chief Election Commissioners, T S Krishnamurthy and N Gopalaswami, former Special Director of Intelligence Bureau, K V S Gopalakrishnan, and finance professionals V Rangantahan and R Anand also spoke of their happy experiences in interacting with Raghavan.