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RR Patil, NCP leader and ex-Maharashtra home minister, dies

Senior NCP leader RR Patil, who was Maharashtra's home minister during the 26/11 terror attacks, died in Mumbai on Monday from cancer at the age of 57.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2015 00:01 IST
RR Patil,Maharashtra,NCP

Former Maharashtra home minister and senior NCP leader RR Patil succumbed to cancer at the age of 57 on Monday. Patil passed away at Lilavati Hospital in Bandra, where he was on life support, hospital sources said. He had been diagnosed with oral cancer in 2014 and underwent a surgery at Breach Candy Hospital in December.

The NCP leader, a six-term MLA from Tasgaon in Sangli district, is survived by his mother, wife and two daughters. The last rites will be performed at his native Anjani village in Sangli district on Tuesday, party sources said. He will be accorded state funeral, announced chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, declaring a day's official mourning on Tuesday.

A politician with a clean image, Patil was the longest serving home minister of the state. He had served as deputy chief minister as well as state unit chief of the NCP and was considered as one of the top leaders of the party.

In his stints as home minister, Patil courted controversies more than once - over the ban on dance bars in 2004-2005 and owing to his controversial remarks post the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.

Son of a farmer, Patil began his political career as member of the Sangli zila parishad and was elected to the Maharashtra Assembly in 1990 on a Congress ticket. He was elected six times in a row, including the 2014 elections, which saw many Congress-NCP stalwarts losing their constituencies.

Patil shot to fame during the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance rule, when he attacked the government in the assembly over various issues. He quit the Congress and joined NCP after his mentor Sharad Pawar floated the party. He was appointed rural development minister in 1999, when the Congress-NCP government came to power and promoted as home minister in 2003, after then deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal quit following the fake stamps controversy.

Patil was promoted as deputy chief minister after the alliance returned to power in 2004.

He, however, had to quit after his remark "small incidents do happen in big cities" in context of the 26/11 attacks evoked strong criticism. Patel was back as home minister in 2009, when the Congress-NCP retained power after elections.

Despite controversies, Patil was hugely popular in rural Maharashtra and also among NCP workers. An impressive orator, Patil was also seen as a politician capable of becoming the chief minister of Maharashtra. Due to his clean image, even anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare had campaigned for Patil in the 2009 assembly elections.

"RR Patil was an honest politician and his death is huge loss to the state," said Fadnavis.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi twetted his condolences. "My thoughts are with Shri RR Patil's family. Am saddened to know of his demise, which leaves a void in Maharashtra politics."

One of the very few politicians with clean image, Raosaheb Ramrao alias RR Patil was born in a farmer family on August 16, 1957 in Anjanigaon in Tasgaon taluka of Sangali district in western Maharashtra.

* His oratory and active participation in the local politics prompted Congress leaders to encourage him to participate in local body elections. He was mentored by former CM late Vasantdada Patil and later by Sharad Pawar. He was elected to Zilla Parishad since 1979 till 1990 when he was first elected to the state assembly. He represented the Tasgaon-Kavathe Mahankal assembly constituency six times in a row from 1990 till 2014.

* Patil shot to limelight when he alongwith other young Congress legislators led attack on erstwhile Shiv Sena-BJP alliance government during 1990-95. He exposed several cases of corruption during this time.

* When his mentor, Pawar floated Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Patil joined the same. In 1999 when the Congres-NCP government came to power, Patil was made rural development minister.

* During his stint as rural development minister, Patil became extremely popular among the rural Maharashtra because of his Sant Gadgebaba Abhiyan, under which 28,000 villages voluntarily participated in a state-level cleanliness competition. The campaign was appreciated even by the Unicef.

* Following Chhagan Bhujbal’s resignation as home minister in fake stamps case controversy, Patil was handed over the charge of home department in 2004.

* Known as a good orator, Patil was most popular NCP leader after Pawar and campaigned extensively for the party in 2004 assembly polls. Patil was appointed as the deputy chief minister after the 2004 victory. He remained in the post till December 1, 2008 when he had to resign following his controversial remarks post 26/11 terror attacks. However, after the Congress-NCP returned to power in October 2009, Pawar reinstated him as home minister.

* His tenure as home minister of Maharashtra was much talked about. He headed the department for ten years, from 2003 to 2014 (barring the gap of ten months) and was regarded as a strict home minister. His biggest achievement in the home department was that he cracked down on the indiscipline, reigned in the `encounter specialists’ in the department and brought in transparency in police recruitment. He recruited 62,000 policemen to reduce the burden on the force. His initiative to ban dance bars, however, became a subject of criticism and nationwide debate.

* Patil was much-appreciated when he decided to take up the responsibility as guardian minister of Maoist-hit Gadchiroli district to tackle the extremists. He often travelled to the affected areas and paid personal attention to development of the area.

RR Patil courted many controversies:
* Dance bar ban

Patil was often accused by many for resorting to moral policing. Following an all-party demand in the assembly, Patil banned dance bars in the state in 2004-2005. The decision evoked mixed reactions with political parties welcoming it and liberal groups opposing it as moral policing. When the Supreme Court, quashed the decision by Maharashtra government two years ago, he vowed to wipe out the shortcomings in the law to ensure that the ban continues.

* Remarks after 26/11
Patil had to resign following controversy over the remarks he made before television channels after 26/11 terror attacks. He was slammed for 'badein shahron mein chhoti chhoti batein hoti rahti hai' (small things keep happening in big cities like Mumbai) remarks after the terror attack. In his defence, Patil kept insisting that he had been quoted out of context.

*Gutka ban
The ban on gutka was first mooted by Patil in 2006 when he was deputy chief minister. The attempts to ban the gutka, which had burgeoning business links spread across the globe, failed as the courts struck them down pointing due to the lacunae in the notifications issued by the state government. Later, In 2008, the decision of the Maharashtra government to ban the gutka and pan masala was upheld by courts.

* Ban on James Laine book
Just ahead of the 2004 assembly polls, Patil took lead in banning author James Laine’s book, `Shivaji: Hindu King In Islamic India’ over certain remarks that were objected by Maratha outfits. Patil was criticized for going slow on the Maratha community groups one of whom attacked Pune’s Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute because the scholars at the institute had helped Laine with his research.

First Published: Feb 16, 2015 16:43 IST