Vilasrao Deshmukh: Vilasrao: The face of the Congress in Maharashtra
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Mumbai: Vilasrao Deshmukh's rise from a humble background in home town Latur to the Centre was driven by his fierce ambition and sharp political instincts. The two-time chief minister of Maharashtra, Vilasrao aligned himself with the anti-Pawar lobby in the state.The strength of Vilasrao is borne out by the fact that despite Shinde leading the party to victory as Chief Minister in 2003, it was Vilasrao who was made Chief Minister in 2004.
Despite being a known Pawar adversary, Vilasrao was able to run a coalition government in the state as long as he was the Chief Minister - taking his rivals along while asserting himself.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar said, "He was a person who was committed and proved his mettle as an effective administrator. He could not get sufficient time and now we are missing him."
BJP leader Nitin Gadkari said, "Vilasrao was a good politician and his leadership and character was an example to all of us. Maharashtra will always remember him."
But it was one wrong error of judgement which led to his downfall. When Vilasrao was seen touring the Taj hotel - the hub of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks - with film maker Ram Gopal Verma, an angry top Congress leadership asked him to step down.
Yet, the power of Vilsarao was such that he was instantly placated at the Centre.
Current state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said, "We have lost a great leader. He started from the lowest level as Sarpanch and became the Chief Minister of Maharashtra."
He was soon involved in another controversy - Adarsh Housing scam and favouring money lenders. It was no surprise that his last public appearance in the state was to defend his role in the Adarsh Housing scam.
Yet through good times and bad, few can deny he was one of the last of a dying breed of Congressman - those with grassroots support and a ruthless ability to practise real politics.