Trade union leader and socialist Sharad Rao passed away in Mumbai on Thursday evening after a prolonged illness. He is survived by his wife Shanta, daughter Dr Shilpa Dabholkar and son Shashank.
The 77-year-old leader was being treated at Nanavati hospital for the past few days. Rao was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2014.
For the past two years, he was undergoing treatment and his son Shashank was handling the affairs of the unions headed by him. Rao-led unions have tremendous influence on the civic government and transport sector, among others.
A close confidant of veteran socialist leader and trade unionist George Fernandes, Rao handled the unions after the latter shifted to national politics. From Hind Mazdoor Sabha to Mumbai Autorickhsawmen’s Union and BEST Workers’ Union to Municipal Mazdoor Union, Rao headed several influential unions on the state- and national-level.
Born on February 9, 1940 at Girgaum, Rao started his career in Hindustan Lever, where he met Fernandes and became his trusted lieutenant from 1967.
Rao started his career with the Janata Party and later Janata Dal under the leadership of former PM VP Singh. He switched to Samata Party and later to the Nationalist Congress Party. He was elected as the corporator of the BMC from Girgaum in the late 1980s. He contested the Assembly elections from Goregaon, but did not win. “Workers in the organised and unorganised sector have lost a great fighter leader,” said CM Devendra Fadnavis, in his condolence message.
Rao will be cremated on Saturday, as his daughter is yet to arrive from Canada, said union activists. His funeral procession will begin from his home in Goregaon at 11am.