Loyalty, thy name is Prithviraj

For the first time, Maharashtra will be ruled by a technocrat-turned-politician.

mumbai Updated: Nov 11, 2010 00:40 IST
Dharmendra Jore
Dharmendra Jore
Hindustan Times

For the first time, Maharashtra will be ruled by a technocrat-turned-politician.

Prithviraj Chavan (64), a gifted student who mastered aircraft instrumentation and designed audio recorders for anti-submarine warfare in the US before taking the political plunge in the early 1990s, will take oath at a time when the state Congress and bureaucracy are facing a crisis of credibility because of the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scam.

“It’s ironic yet significant that the man who played on a bigger pitch — the Prime Minister’s Office — will now take guard on a smaller field,” said political analyst Pratap Thorat. “Chavan has come here to set the house in order. There are great expectations of him.”

The BITS Pilani and University of California alumnus is fiercely loyal to the Gandhi family. His father Anandrao, of Kumbhargaon village in Satara district, served in Jawaharlal Nehru’s Cabinet for 11 years before his mother Pramilakaki represented Karad in the Lok Sabha. Chavan won from his mother’s seat in 1991.

He has never looked back since.

An ace troubleshooter, Chavan has been part of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for the past seven years. As a minister of state, he energised the PMO and extended crucial help to Manmohan Singh during his turbulent first term. The second United Progressive Alliance government too benefited a lot from Chavan’s diligence.

Getting clearance for legislation required for the India-US nuclear deal was testimony to his political skills.

He supported genetically modified Bt brinjal in India, though some his Cabinet colleagues opposed the move. Unmindful of the criticism, he made his views and support for biotechnology companies working in the genetically modified crop sector public.

Also, while Chavan’s loyalty to the Gandhis is unchallenged, he is anything but high-profile.

“At 64, Chavan is not part of Rahul Gandhi’s young brigade, but the party’s experiment with a relatively young Ashok Chavan (52) failed miserably,” said Thorat. “Experience will count now.”

Popularly known as Baba, Chavan is a family man. However, his wife Satvasheela, son Jaysinh and daughter Ankita rarely make public appearances.

“Chavan saheb is so simple that he sits on the floor to have lunch with us. He’s very grounded,” said Mahadev Shelar, Chavan’s close associate from Satara.

“After meeting him, you wouldn’t believe his family has been a political power since 1952.”

First Published: Nov 11, 2010 00:38 IST