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|October 18, 1999||
CM rides a dream - from Babhalgaon to Bombay
For Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was sworn-in as the 21st chief minister of Maharashtra today, the swearing-in ceremony at Raj Bhavan was culmination of a much cherished dream. A dream that transported him from the dusty panchayat office of Babhalgaon in Latur district to the seat of power in Mumbai.
The swearing-in also marked a stunning comeback for him. Only a few months back Deshmukh was pushed into political oblivion after losing the legislative council election which he had contested as a rebel Congress candidate.
Deshmukh is the third chief minister of this western state who hails from Marathwada after Shankarrao Chavan, and Dr Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar. Chavan held the post twice. The new chief minister is known to be close to Chavan.
Born on May 25, 1945 at Babhalgaon in Latur district, Deshmukh finished his primary education at a village school before moving for Latur to study further. He attended college in Pune and graduated first in science, then in arts and topped it all with a degree in law.
Right from his student days Vilasrao, as his contemporaries know him, was deeply interested in politics. He was elected as the sarpanch of the Babhalgaon village panchayat in 1974.
He joined the Congress when Sanjay Gandhi was at the helm of the youth wing of the party. Soon, he became the president of the Osmanabad District Youth Congress. Later, he was elected as a member of the Osmanabad Zilla Parishad. Briefly he was held the post of the deputy chairman of the Latur Panchayat Samiti.
Deshmukh, a known Sharad Pawar baiter, has always been in the good books of his bosses in Delhi. From Sanjay Gandhi to Indira Gandhi to Rajiv, he was always close to the Gandhi family. And now, Sonia consults him on matter related to the state.
As the founder-chairman of the Manjara Co-operative Sugar Factory, which is famous for its generous bonuses to farrmer-members, Deshmukh has a emerged as a strong co-operative leader. He also owns a Marathi daily Ekmat published simultaneously from Latur and Aurangabad.
A leader with a long legislative and administrative experience, he has served as a minister in almost all Congress ministries. He held such important portfolios like revenue, cooperation, public works department and legislative affairs in the ministries of S B Chavan. He was an industries minister in Sudhakarrao Naik's cabinet and revenue minister in the ministry led by Sharad Pawar.
Deshmukh's greatest strength is that he is respected by his friends and enemies alike. So much so that Pawar, his sworn enemy, could not ignore him when it came to constitution of his (Pawar's) cabinet.
A doting father, Deshmukh's family comprises his wife, Vaishali and three children. He is fond of reading, music and table-tennis. Let's hope not the political game of ping pong.
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