Senior Congress leader and former chief minister of Maharashtra, Shivajirao Patil Nilangaker, died at the age of 91 in Pune on Wednesday. He died of renal failure, four days after he recovered from Covid-19.
His death marks the end of a generation of Congress leaders who had helped shape the state of Maharashtra since its inception. The veteran Congress leader, who was the chief minister of the state for a less than year between June 1985 and March 1986, had worked with stalwarts such as Vasantdada Patil and Yashwantrao Chavan during the formative years of the state.
Patil Nilangaker was born in Gulbarga and pursued his primary education in Hyderabad. His higher education was completed in Nagpur, from where he earned his PhD. He had been part of electoral politics since 1957, but his first success came in the year 1963, when he won the assembly election from Nilanga constituency in Latur district. He continued to represent this seat till the 1980s, after which his son Deelipkumar represented the seat till 1982.
Patil Nilangaker made a comeback in electoral politics in 1990 by contesting and winning from Nilanga, and held the seat till 1999.
A fall-out in the family saw Deelipkumar’s son Sambhaji contesting the election on a BJP ticket in 2004 and defeating his grandfather, Patil Nilangaker, but the latter defeated his grandson in the subsequent election of 2009. Sambhaji Patil, however, again managed to defeat his grandfather in the 2014 assembly election. In the 2019 assembly election, Sambhaji Patil contested against Patil Nilangaker’s second son and his uncle Ashokrao, and defeated him.
Patil Nilangaker’s brief tenure as a chief minister, however, was marked by a controversy when he was accused of exerting undue pressure to influence the marks of his daughter, who was pursuing a degree in medicine. Severe strictures from the Bombay High Court in this issue led to his resignation. Although he was later exonerated in the case, the damage was done.
His foray in the cooperative sector, with the setting up of a cooperative sugar mill in Nilanga, failed to take off due to non-availability of cane in the region.
A prominent Congress leader of Marathwada, Patil Nilangaker had tested positive for Covid-19 last month, and was admitted to a private hospital in Pune. He had tested negative for the virus four days ago, but had developed complications of heart and kidneys. Sources in the hospital said he passed away early on Wednesday morning due to renal failure. His last rites were conducted in his hometown of Nilanga on Wednesday afternoon.
In his condolence message, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray called Patil Nilangaker a leader who acted as a bridge between two generations.
Congress MLA from Latur rural, Dhiraj Deshmukh, remembered the leader as someone who worked tirelessly for the betterment of rural Maharashtra and his people. “When I started work in Youth Congress as the Latur district president, he always advised and guided me. He also campaigned for me as a Congress candidate during my electoral bid for the zilla parishad as well as the assembly election. His sudden demise is a personal loss to me and my family,” he said.