MUMBAI | NEW DELHI: Humble, soft spoken, man of integrity, these are attributes seldom associated with politicians but fits Suresh Prabhu. Once rated one of the three future leaders of India by Asiaweek, Prabhu was largely ignored by Shiv Sena since 2004. Ten years later, Prabhu returned to be sworn in as Cabinet minister, as a BJP member. Modi wanted the 61-year-old banker-politician in his government despite an overwhelming opinion that he\'s a \'misfit\' in politics. \"He isn\'t a politician. He is a misfit because he doesn\'t subscribe to party culture, nor is he a yes-man. He is a fantastic administrator, but doesn\'t project himself as one. He is very well read and aware of what\'s going around him, but would be unaware of what\'s happening in his party,\" said a Sena leader who knows Prabhu. \"And if anyone deserves to be a minister, it\'s Prabhu,\" he concluded. He had brought a rare spark as power minister in Vajpayee\'s government. Veteran Journalist Pratap Thorat spoke of how Bal Thackeray discovered Prabhu: \"Thackeray wanted some experts to interact with Uddhav to broaden his horizons. Shantaram Gotoskar, a journalist with a language daily entrusted the task to Prabhu, who was managing Saraswat Bank. His interactions impressed the Sena chief and he decided Prabhu would be the party\'s Lok Sabha candidate from Rajapur in 1996,\" reminisces Thorat.
Thackeray next chose him as a minister, ignoring the claims of seasoned Sena leaders. \"I still remember senior leaders sitting at Matoshree to lobby for the post. Prabhu wasn\'t there, but Thackeray said Prabhu would be the party\'s choice,\" said Thorat. Prabhu was to impress his new boss Vajpayee soon. \"Vajpayee had a special liking for him... Prabhu as power minister tried hard to initiate reforms in the sector. He campaigns hard for the issues he believes in and is a strong implementor,\" said .. But this irked the Thackerays, and Sena forced Prabhu to resign. He, however, took this in his stride. \"In all these years, he never spoke against the Thackerays, nor was he demoralised. He quietly went back to his consultancy work,\" said Thorat.
Prabhu has the ability to take risks and stand by his actions. \"We used to tell him that we have plans for the bank but were afraid to implement them. He would always tell us not to bother about the consequences since he would take responsibility,\" said DR Shirodkar, CEO of New India Cooperative Bank, who worked with Prabhu for 12 years. His main drawback is that he is not a people\'s leader. \"When he was with the Sena, he stayed aloof from the cadres, and ignored his constituency as an MP. He couldn\'t connect with the people... he couldn\'t draw crowds with a speech. Since he is not a political operator, he can only work under a good boss,\" said Thorat. One will have to see whether he\'s found the right boss.