WHEN RAJEEV Satav took on some of the senior Congress leaders at an internal meeting of the party in August last year, it surprised many. For Satav, who died of post-Covid complications on Sunday, was known to be a soft-spoken leader who avoided open confrontations and believed in adjustments and accommodation, a rather typical Congress trait.
But over the years, he had become close to Rahul Gandhi and had come to be identified as a key member of team Rahul. So the position he took was in tune with the internal tussle that the party is witnessing now.
It was political, the internal variety. And he was deeply political too. That episode apart, Satav was non-controversial and unassuming with an ability to make friends. He was after all an organisational man.
“He was a rising star of the Congress party,” Sonia Gandhi said expressing shock at his death.
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The 46-year-old Rajya Sabha member indeed had a meteoric rise in the Congress. He began his electoral career as a block panchayat member in 2002 and went on to become both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MP within a span of 18 years. In the organisation, he began as an office-bearer of Maharashtra Youth Congress and went on to become the national president of the Youth Congress, AICC in charge of the key state of Gujarat and a CWC member.
A law graduate and alumni of Pune’s famous Fergusson College, Satav comes from a political family. His mother Rajanitai Satav was a former MLA and minister. But Satav, unlike many of the other young stars of the Congress, rose through the ranks. His rise was only faster though. From a block panchayat member, he graduated to Zilla Parishad of his home district of Hingoli in the next few years and became an MLA for the first time in 2009.
During the same period, he became the president of the state Youth Congress. In 2010, he was appointed the national Youth Congress president. For many, he was one of the upcoming OBC faces of the Congress in Maharashtra.
In 2014, as the Congress was decimated across the country, he was among the 44 party MPs. He along with the likes of Sushmita Dev, Gourav Gogoi and Deepender Hooda-led the Congress charge in Lok Sabha and often punched above the party’s weight under the leadership of Mallikarjun Kharge.
The party sent him to Rajya Sabha last year. He was among the eight MPs suspended when the controversial farm laws were passed in the Upper House.
Sonia said Satav rose from the grassroots to holding many responsibilities in a short time due to his unfailing dedication, sincerity and hard work. Rahul tweeted: “I’m very sad at the loss of my friend Rajeev Satav. He was a leader with huge potential who embodied the ideals of the Congress. It’s a big loss for us all. My condolences and love to his family.”
Satav was one of the key architects of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government due to his proximity to Rahul Gandhi, said Shiv Sena spokesperson and MP Sanjay Raut.
The MVA government, a conglomeration of the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress, came into being in November 2019. It was formed at a time when none, including Congressmen themselves, believed that the party would ever joined hands with the Sena with whom it had ideological differences.
“I was constantly in touch with him. He used to initially tell me that the Congress, as of now, did not seem to be in a mood to join hands with the Sena. He used to say keep making the efforts, I am sure the mood in the party will change. And it finally changed,” said Raut.
Congress leader and State Minister Satej Patil said, “The Congress has suffered a big blow with the death of Satav. He was the bridge between the State Congress and our leadership in Delhi.”
Marathi author Shrimant Kokate said Satav was a down-to-earth leader and a man of his words.
NCP MLA Supriya Sule said the state has lost a young leader, who had a great future. “He was a dear friend, a colleague and a younger brother. We had several brainstorming sessions on public issues, on legislations. We worked closely for five years. Rajeev was not only an outstanding parliamentarian but was also known for his humane qualities,” she said.
BJP leader and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “Satav did not confine himself to his own party when making friendship. He made friends outside his party. He was very studious, an upcoming leader and we would often meet and discuss issues of public interest. His death is indeed very saddening.”
AIMIM leader Imtiaz Jaleel said, “We met several times in Parliament and chatted. He was very humble, studious and one who was popular among ordinary party workers as he stood by them. The state has suffered a big loss with his death.”
MPCC chief Nana Patole said, “For me and my party, Satav’s death is a massive blow and an irreparable loss. The void left by his death will be difficult to fill. I have lost a friend, a brother.”
Satav was undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Pune after testing Covid positive last month and was on ventilator support. After recovering from Covid, he was diagnosed with Cytomegalovirus infection and his condition became critical.
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