Vilasrao: The grassroots man bids farewell

Last Updated: Tue, Aug 14, 2012 12:13 hrs

New Delhi, Aug 14 (IBNS) Vilasrao Dagadojirao Deshmukh, whose untimely death on Tuesday created a big political void, was the most amiable face of Congress from Maharashtra and a leader who worked his way up from the rank and file of the party to become the chief minister of the western state and then a central minister.

While people knew Vilasrao, whose last assignment was as the Union Science and Technology Minister, as a sagacious politician with an acceptable personality and a Bollywood actor son (Riteish), he was one of the few politicians from Maharashtra who would know every nook and corner of the state having started his career from the Panchayat level.

Born on May 26, 1945, Vilasrao Vilasrao Deshmukh was two-time Chief Minister of Maharashtra, first from 1999 to 2003 and then from 2004 to 2008. Deshmukh was a B.Sc., B.A., and LL.B. He got his education at Garware College under Pune University and I.L.S. Law College, Pune.

Vilasrao had deep-rooted connections with his birthplace, the district of Latur in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra. He was born in the village Babhalgaon in Latur and had started his political journey from that nondescript village way back in 1974.

Between 1974 and 1976 he was the village sarpanch of Babhalgaon and then became the Chairman of the Latur Taluka Panchayat Samiti.

His association with the youth forces of his region made him popular. He was the president of the Osmanabad District Youth Congress.

Deshmukh had worked hard for the implementation of the five-point Programme of the Youth Congress and was credited for the empowerment of Zilla Panchayats and strengthening of the Panchayati Raj System.

It was in 1980 that he became a member of the assembly. He won elections and remained an MLA from 1980 to 1995.

He was a minister during that period and handled department as varied as Home, General Administration, Cooperation, Public Works, Transport to Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Dairy, Fisheries, Industry, Rural Development, Education, Technical Education, Sports and Youth Welfare to tourism.

The political moment for Vilasrao came in 1999 when on Oct 18 that year he was sworn in as the chief minister of Maharashtra.

However, Congress factionalism forced him to step down in Jan, 2003 and Sushil Kumar Shinde became the CM.

Deshmukh, however, soon made a comeback in 2004 and became a CM again in November that year.

However, the 26/11 attack in Mumbai and his role afterwards came under sharp media criticism. When he went inside the two Mumbai luxury hotels attacked by the Pakistan based terrorists, with Bollywood filmmaker Ram Gopal Verma and his actor son Riteish Deshmukh, it was seen as trivialization of the terror strike.

"CM takes actor son, Ram Gopal Verma on terror tour" became the headline in newspapers. Though Deshmukh said the presence of Verma was a mere coincidence, that one visual in the aftermath of Mumbai attack with the public anger soaring, led to his resignation. He owned moral responsibility and stepped down.

But Deshmukh was soon accommodated in New Delhi politics by the Congress.

He became a Rajya Sabha MP and was made theUnion Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises in May 2009. Later in July last year, he became the Minister of Science and Technology and Minister of Earth Sciences following a cabinet reshuffle.

Deshmukh´s name was also linked to the Adarsh Society scam in recent times as it was blamed that the letter of intent for the land allocation for the Mumbai building, where supposedly the flats meant for the Kargil War martyrs´ families were given to others in politics and high defence position, was effected on the last day of Deshmukh´s tenure as the CM in 2001.

However, those two unsavoury episodes apart, Deshmukh was seen as a widely acceptable politician who had excellent rapport with even his political rivals in opposition parties.

Deshmukh was married to Vaishali Deshmukh since May 1975 and they had three sons, including Bollywood actor Riteish Deshmukh.

At the height of his political career, Deshmukh fell ill suddenly last month. He had both liver and kidney failure and was taken to a Chennai hospital. But even before he could undergo a liver transplant (there was delay in procuring one owing to lack of liver donors in India), he died on Aug 14, 2012, bringing to an end an illustrious political career at age 67 prematurely.

(Writing by Sujoy Dhar)

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