If Pratik Prakashbapu Patil’s mother had her way, she would have her younger son, Vishal, join politics. There would be heated arguments over this. Things came to a head and Pratik left home to live in Bangalore.
This was not the first time Patil junior had walked out on his family. It had happened once before when his father, Prakash Patil, refused to use his MPLAD (Member of Parliament Local Area Development) fund to buy computers for the family-run institutes.
It is, therefore, a bit of an irony that Pratik Patil’s political career has more to do with his lineage than his track record. In his first term as MP — elected in 2006 — he was an MP in absentia. He was nowhere on the scene when floods ravaged his constituency Sangli.
Patil’s sole claim to fame was his grandfather Vasantdada Patil, the grand old man of Maharashtra politics, he was four times Chief Minister of the state. Influenced by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Vasantdada Patil looted railways and procured guns during the independence movement.
His second marriage, to Shalinitai, alienated his family. His sons had to seek an appointment to see him. Prakash Patil often queued up for hours to meet his father, like everyone else.
Yet it was Vasantdada’s legacy which the family encashed and fought over. Pratik’s father contested against his brother Madan Patil for the Lok Sabha in 1999.
To outsiders, they were always a family that put itself before everything else. “They have often worked against the Congress. In 1999, they campaigned against the party candidate,” said Ajit Ghorpade, an MLA.
Pratik Patil, it seems, has played his cards well. Despite opposition from within and outside, he won the Lok Sabha seat and is in the Union Cabinet. “I am the family’s cream fellow,” Pratik Patil told Hindustan Times. Whatever that may mean, perhaps being on the right side of everyone.
His family history notwithstanding, Pratik had an intense dislike for politics and politicians. As a child he saw them as “bad people, doing bad things and have a bad name”. He qualified as an automobile engineer because high-speed cars fascinated him.
Patil’s induction to the Union Cabinet may have brought him centre-stage but he is not planning to stick around for long. He wants out by 45. He says he needs a long holiday and wants to go somewhere far away. Seems he has it all worked out because his insurance policies mature then. Now 36, Patil has less than ten years to go.