By Vijay Darda | 15-08-2012
Vilasrao’s untimely death is the culmination of a successful administrator of the country, a development- oriented leader of Maharashtra and an ever smiling activist who had not lost his zest even after a long tenure in politics. Sarpanch of Babhalgaon village, chief minister of Maharashtra and then Union minister, he served in several prestigious posts. There was this trait of politeness in his personality that always remained with him. In his death, I have lost a close friend who was intimately associated with me and my family.
I have seen Vilasrao, who had been the chief minister of Maharashtra twice, in State politics and later in Parliament. He had a comprehensive vision of all-round development of Maharashtra. He paid equal attention to the development of Marathwada and Vidarbha along with the development of Mumbai and Maharashtra. We cannot forget the fact that Vilasrao, who chalked out several schemes for making living in Mumbai comfortable, was also the architect of beautification of Nagpur. He cared for labour class of Konkan as well as the tribals of Gadchiroli who lived under the shadow of terror unleashed by Naxals. This farmer leader, who was born in a rural area of Marathwada, had deep compassion for poor and hardworking ryots. He felt that Marathi youth should attain heights in all fields — right from agriculture to technology. Vilasrao was an art lover. I always felt that had he not been in politics,
Vilasrao, a handsome person that he was, would have been a fine actor. As he had handled almost all important ministries in the administration of Maharashtra, he possessed matured administrative vision. Everybody could see this in Delhi where he handled various Union ministries. He was a trusted colleague of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. The Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi, also reposed great faith in him.
Apart from Congress, he had good rapport with Opposition parties. When Parliament came to know about the fatal disease he was suffering from, I could see that everybody was pained. His friendship with Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde is very old and well-known. I have seen tears welling up in Sushilkumar’s eyes while speaking about the disease Vilasrao was suffering from. The late leader had a multifaceted personality and evinced keen interest in literature, culture, dance, drama, films and even in folk art ‘lavani’. He was very proficient in Marathi and soon after coming to Delhi, developed a great command over Hindi. Maharashtra and the whole country have heard lectures delivered by him in fluent English. He delivered lively discourses in national and international conferences on the subjects ranging from technology to rural development and these will forever remain etched in the memory of people.
Vilasrao was an ace orator. To be honest, he was the most successful leader who could convey the viewpoint of Congress to educated urbanites as well as rural masses. His speeches were laced with humour and showed his scholarship. Moreover, his criticism did not have trace of animosity. That is why, one could not spot political opponents nurse a feeling of extreme anger against him even though he was in politics for such a long time. Everybody saw in him an ideal leader who could take along people, activists, administration and political colleagues.
Vilasrao was quickwitted and could disarm his critics with that simple smile of his. People in politics have to face all kinds of criticism and Vilasrao was no exception. However, one could never see him becoming bitter. He always seemed confident that this period would also pass and that his genuineness would make his critics silent.
Both his terms as the chief minister were very successful. Maharashtra was peaceful and stable during this period. There was no violence, no riots. One could always see a picture of a state maintain communal and religious harmony and continuing its march towards development . Personalities like Vilasrao, who offer leadership sans acrimony, have become rare today and we will increasingly feel their need after the sad demise of Vilasrao. It is a day of great sadness for me to pay homage to this majestic personality, a broadminded friend of mine, who died at the mere age of 67.