Maharashtra’s former chief minister AR Antulay is one of the most popular and committed leaders who served people of the state and country with dedication and sincerity. Antulay’s tenure as a chief minister of Maharashtra was brief. He was admired for his efficiency and administrative acumen. Antulay maintained his arpeggio with the people of Raigad, his home district. However, he was totally disconnected from politics and people of the state in the recent years. Moreover, his name will always be synonymous with the massive cement scandal and settlement of Bangladeshi in Mumbai.
When 26/11 Mumbai attacks took place, Late Abdul Rehman Antulay tried to divert the investigation by expressing doubts over the killing of Hemant Karkare, then chief of ATS. He was an officer who detected the involvement of Hindu extremists Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Colonel Purohit in Malegon Qabrasthan Masjid serial blast. Antulay’s intention was clear. Subsequently, Digvijay Singh his party’s companion did the same thing and went to the extent of saying that Late Karkare informed him (Digvijay Singh) that his life was under threat. Karkare’s wife rubbished Digvijay Singh’s statements. Hemant Karkare’s wife Kavita died recently due to illness. They speculate that his killing may be related to his investigation of the 2006 Malegaon blasts, leading to questions about the Mumbai attacks. Later, he changed his stand and told parliament that he had not talked about who killed the police officers but about who “sent them in the wrong direction”. Congress Party distanced itself from his statements. However, the US embassy cables indicate that this early dismissal was then followed by tacit promotion, indicating “the Congress Party will readily stoop to the old caste/religious-based politics if it feels it is in its interest.
Prior to his death, Antulay was admitted to Breach Candy hospital for a severe kidney ailment. According to his relatives, Mr. Antulay was a heart patient and had also undergone bypass surgery in the past. Mr. Antulay was a barrister from Lincoln’s Inn, London. Antulay was the first and only Muslim Chief Minister of Maharashtra during the years 1980 to 1982. However, he had to resign from his post following allegations of corruption. He was convicted in an extortion case by the Bombay High Court. The court ruled that Antulay had illegally asked Mumbai area builders to make donations to Indira Gandhi Pristhan trust, one of several trust funds he had established and controlled, in exchange for receiving more cement than the quota allotted to them by the Government. There were two interesting angles to the cement scam which went unnoticed though. One, the trust that collected donations was named after Indira Gandhi (Indira Gandhi Pratibha Pratishthan), Congress’ supreme leader at the time and two, the leak came from the Maratha leaders in Maharashtra who were uncomfortable working under a Muslim chief minister (the star witness by the prosecution was Shalinitai Patil who was the Revenue Minister in Antulay’s cabinet).Later, he worked as party MLA and MP, representing the Congress in Raigad district. He fought his last election in 2009, which he lost to the Shiv Sena, after which he was out of active politics. Antulay’s career is the case of a classic Muslim politician who started out as a liberal in the 70s and ended as a conservative Muslim at the turn of the century and that, indeed, is a tragedy of Indian secularism.
Recently, controversy surrounded him after he staged a rebellion against the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and extended support to the candidate of the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP). His decision came against the party’s move to give the Raigad constituency to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). He had said that he was hurt since the party didn’t even consult him before taking the decision.
Antulay was a Minister of Minority Affairs and a Member of Parliament in the 14th Lok Sabha of India. In the Indian general elections, 2009, he lost to Anant Geete from the Raigad Lok Sabha constituency of Maharashtra. Antulay was a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from 1962 to 1976, during which time he served in the Maharashtra state government as Minister of State for Law and Judiciary, Ports and Fisheries and then as Minister of Law & Judiciary, Building, Communication and Housing from October 1969 to February 1976. He was a member of Rajya Sabha from 1976 to 1980. After serving as a CM and forced to resign, he again got elected in 1985 election to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and remained until 1989, when he was elected to the 9th Lok Sabha.
He started his career as active social worker in 1945. As a social worker, his notable achievements include construction of (i) a jetty on the bank of Savitri river, Bankot (Khadi) Creek through local people offering free labour (Shramdan in Marathi) to complete the task. He had a keen interest in the uplifting of the weaker sections of the society.