Death finally sneaked up on him when he expected it the least. Dr Shrikant Jichkar had defied death when he spiritedly fought off cancer. However, it seems that death had retreated only to stalk him silently since. On Wednesday, it struck in the most devastating and merciless manner.
Dr Jichkar died of grievous injuries sustained after his car slammed into an oncoming bus at Dhamana Shivar, about 40 kilometres from Nagpur.
A man with a multifaceted personality, Dr Jichkar was interested in and had a deep study of several subjects. Besides English, Hindi and Marathi, he had command over Sanskrit. Born on September 14, 1954, in village Ajangaon (Jichkar) in Katol Tehsil of Nagpur district, Dr Jichkar completed his medical education from Government Medical College in Nagpur, obtaining his MBBS and MD degrees.
Although he was selected for the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1978 and for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1980, Dr Jichkar chose to make a career in politics. In fact, his innings had begun in 1977 itself when he was elected the president of Nagpur University Students Council (NUSC). In 1980, he took the plunge into politics when he successfully contested the election to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from Katol constituency.
Dr Jichkar was minister of state in the Maharashtra Cabinet in 1982-83 and again from 1986 to 1988. In all, he held 14 portfolios at various times, among them being finance and home.
He was a legislator from 1980 to 1992, being a member of both the legislative assembly as well as the legislative council. He was a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1992 to 1998.
He had the honour of being appointed the first Vice Chancellor of the Kavi Kulguru Kalidas Sanskrit University that was established at Ramtek in Nagpur district in 1993. In fact, he had a major share in the establishment of the university.
Dr Jichkar had also established a unique record by obtaining nine MA degrees in various subjects, including Public Administration, Sanskrit, Sociology, English Literature, Political Science, Economics and History. This was in addition to degrees in journalism, business administration and law.
While he had three books to his credit, he had a collection of 52,000 rare books in his personal library. A staunch opponent of the demand for statehood for Vidarbha, Dr Jichkar had written a book on the finances of the region to demonstrate that the state would be unviable.
His annual lecture analysing the Union Budget was hugely popular. Thousands would throng the auditorium to listen to his insights into the budget proposals.
Dr Jichkar had a deep knowledge of Indian culture and Hindu rites and rituals. Among the numerous subjects in which Dr Jichkar had an interest in was astrology. He could 'read' a horoscope, including his own. He could analyse the movement of planets in a horoscope down to the last detail.
During an interview with this correspondent at his residence several years ago, the conversation turned to astrology. Dr Jichkar consulted an elaborate chart that he had prepared himself and predicted that the interview was taking place at the right time. He said that in another half an hour, the planetary positions would change and he would have been in a grouchy mood.
But the scholar-politician could not stop death from sneaking up to him.