Why is it that whenever a politician dies, no matter how his track record is, everyone lines up to scream from the rooftops that the “light has gone out from our lives”.
The Prime Minister tells Deshmukh that he was “an able administrator”.
Now maybe the PM knew him better because he was “a dear friend and a very valued colleague”.
But as I did not share a deep friendship with the recently deceased, what do I have to make up my opinion?
Mostly old headlines, in which he usually appeared when he did something so out rightly bent that it outraged several courts and the public at large.
I personally love the one in which the Supreme Court of India had to essentially tell the Chief Minister – “Shame, shame, puppy shame!”
You see, way back in 2006, some farmers tried to file a complaint with the cops against the father of legislator Sananda, who was a private moneylender. They claimed that the father was badly overcharging interest.
After the cops repeatedly refused to take down the FIR, the farmers took the matter to court.
And the sordid details poured out. As it turns out the Personal Secretary of our dear Deshmukh gave the cops a call and told them not file the FIR.
In an act of ass-saving and covering up that surely needs to be entered in some record books somewhere, the cops dutifully made an official note that they were not filing the FIR because the PA of the Chief Minister said so.
This note, telephonic records and the fact that the District Collector of the region was summoned to the CM’s office the next day for a dressing down, all came out in various courts.
I quote the Supreme Court of India here, because I cannot match their prose –
“This amounts to bestowing special favours to a chosen few at the cost of the vast number of poor people who, as farmers, have taken loans and who have come to the authorities of law and order to register their complaints against torture and atrocities by the money lenders,”.
Deshmukh’s action is “completely contrary to and inconsistent with the constitution’s promise of equality and also the resolve of social and economic justice,”.
The directions were “wholly unconstitutional and seek to subvert the constitutional norms of equality and social justice”.
Such sweet words bestowed on the man who BJP Leader Prakash Javadekar said, “always strived for the development of Maharashtra and was especially focused on the cause of farmers.”
Deshmukh also had a great love for Bollywood. His son, Ritiesh Deshmukh is a Bollywood actor and reasonably talented.
But Deshmkuh had a deeper connection than that. In 2000, he had handed over 20 acres of land over to director Subhash Ghai for a film institute. The land should have cost Ghai 31.20 crore. Ghai got it for 3 crore.
Funnily enough two courts had opinions on that.
High Court of Maharastra –
“It is not acceptable that a Chief Minister will personally sign such an agreement, which is illegal. It is clear that Vilasrao has extended undue favours to Ghai’s Whistling Woods.”
Supreme Court of India –
“The state government has given land to its blue-eyed boy for a paltry sum of money. Three Chief Ministers did nothing on the proposal of (Ghai) and kept it in cold storage… but this Chief Minister comes and the next day, the process starts.”
The judges added about Mr Ghai, “You are a great film-maker, but there are greater film makers also. Why you have been chosen?”
The difference of opinion between those who ruled with him and those who had to make rulings against him is quite..interesting – .
For example, this is what Union Minister of Commerce, Industry & Textiles, Anand Sharma had to say –
“His contribution will be remembered not only in the State of Maharashtra where he was the Chief Minister, but will be mourned by the entire nation.”
And this is what Justice AK Ganguly of the Supreme Court had to say in 2011, after Deshmukh was given some portfolios in the Union Government –
“It is sad and shocking to see how the government allows and appreciates such ministers. Not only that, (it) also gives them a cabinet post. It is not a dignified act, I would call it a shameless act.”
Right. Thank you your honor.
Actually what I mostly remember Deshmukh for is the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008.
Not only was the entire administration of Maharastra and Mumbai caught napping (wasn’t Deshmukh a ‘great’ administrator’?) but, after the attacks, Deshmukh went to visit the destroyed Taj Hotel…with his actor son and Bollywood director Ram Gopal Varma.
They were still washing the blood of the innocent victims off the streets when Deshmukh, the Chief Minister of his state, thought it would be totally cool if his son, renown for roles in films like –
And the director famous for –
…should come with him to what was essentially, ground zero, where the media was beaming every minute of his filmy jaunt to the entire nation. Live.
My brain practically shuts down when it tries to understand what was going through Deshmukh’s mind.
The point of all this is, not every death is ‘unfortunate’ to the whole country and not every one automatically becomes a ‘great’ man the moment life leaves him.
When politicians begin to wax eloquent about what a good man he was, what a noble person he was, how he was so helpful, so generous and how the nation will never forget him – not only do they sound silly but it makes me wonder if we are both talking about the same man.
Deshmukh MAY have been a great friend to all of these people. He certainly went to great lengths, breaking several laws and the dignity of his office, to please his ‘friends’.
But his public service record is both blotted and sometimes, just insane.
The media is no better. It was amusing to watch NDTV literally struggle to try and come up with good adjectives to describe him. They called his death ‘unfortunate’.
They threw in one token line about his ‘clashes’ with the courts before moving on to sound bytes from his fellow politicians who completely adored him.
I hope the media realizes that even Hitler’s death CAN be reported as –
“Adolf Hitler’s death was sudden, coming as an unfortunate shock to his family. Although he sometimes had run-ins with genocide and world war, his friends described him as a great man and a good administrator.”
That above sentence is completely factually accurate, but somehow, not quite right. You see the subtle difference there? Do yeah? Huh? Huh?
Is the logic that now that he is dead, he has kinda, sorta answered-ish for his transgressions? Are we hoping that there is an after life and the dead will answer there?
That still doesn’t change reality.
Vilasrao Deshmukh was a good politician who was well versed in the art of wining elections. He was a loyal favorite of the Congress party and by all accounts an immensely useful friend to have.
He was also corrupt and badly misused the office to which he was voted into.
He died today of cardiac arrest, which arose due to complications from his liver failure.
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