Former Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil passed away; he had served this state for ten long years on various portfolios. He was Sharad Pawar’s blue eyed boy and one of the prominent NCP leaders. In December last year, he was treated for a heart condition for which he had undergone successful angiography at the Bombay Hospital. He had also undergone surgery some months ago for an oral cancer at Breach Candy Hospital in south Mumbai. Patil was addicted to tobacco like his mentor Mr. Sharad Pawar and both suffered oral cancer. Both have been undergoing treatment for oral cancer. Recently, Sharad Pawar too was in critical condition and was on life support at Breach Candy Hospital. Pawar anyhow fought with the disease and survived. He is good fighter with a will and doing fine. However, his favourite disciple was not that lucky and said ‘Good bye’ too early.
R R Patil was a representative of a deep-rooted social practice particular to Maharashtra politics and generally found evidence in the culture of the state. There are many leaders who irrespective of political parties, are not only addicted to tobacco but some are also manufacturers of tobacco products. Former Union Aviation Minister Praful Patel’s family runs the $ 4 billion Cee-Jay group, India’s largest beedi manufacturer. Eknath Khadse, senior BJP leader and Maharashtra Revenue Minister is also addicted to cigarettes. Girish Bapat, another BJP leader is also addicted to chewing tobacco. Congress leader and former Textile Minister Arif Naseem Khan is addicted to beedi. NCP founder Sharad Pawar is obsessed with chewing tobacco; after suffering from oral cancer, he quit it. Many of their comrades continue to smoke and masticate with enthusiasm. Many political leaders are addicted to smoking and chewing tobacco. Tobacco chewing is an integral part of the culture of people in Maharashtra, Haryana and UP. While easy availability and accessibility even in extreme rural parts remains the main reason, social acceptability is another. In 2011, former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan (he hasn’t yielded to tobacco’s temptations) had signed a pledge to fight tobacco consumption along with Tata Memorial Hospital and had invited cancer experts to talk about the hazards to all the MLA’s and MLC’s during the monsoon session. Despite these efforts and a gutka ban in place, nothing has changed in the state.
We lost a leader of caliber due to such addictions. R. R. Patil was popularly known as “Aaba”. Patil was a member of Sangli Zilla Parishad from 1979 to 1990 from Savlaj constituency; he was then elected to the Maharashtra legislative assembly in 1990, 1995, 1999, 2004 and 2009, representing Tasgaon, in Sangli district. He became the Chief Whip of the Congress Party in the assembly as well as the chairman of the public accounts committee of the assembly in 1996–97 and 1998–99.
On November 1, 2004, he was sworn in as the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra. He is the chief of the Nationalist Congress Party’s Maharashtra unit and NCP legislative party in Maharashtra. He was also the Home Minister of Maharashtra in the previous government. After taking charge of Home Ministry, he also sought guardianship of Naxal activity affected district Gadchiroli. Inspite of many naxalised attacks, he encouraged natives of those areas to support elected Government through some developmental work for them. He became Home Minister of Maharashtra for the second time after the 2009 Maharashtra assembly election victory of the Congress-NCP alliance.
His comments in the aftermath of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks have drawn severe criticism for downplaying the gravity of the situation. He was quoted as saying, “They (the terrorists) came to kill 5,000 people but we ensured minimal damage”. Sources close to him have argued that his comments are being taken out of context and that he did not intend to downplay the grievous attack.
He was forced to resign on 1 December 2008 after further remarks on the attacks. When asked at a press conference whether the terror strike was an intelligence failure, Patil said, “It is not like that. In big cities like this, small incidents do happen. It’s is not a total failure.” Patil’s words drew flak from many quarters. He drew irk from all over India for his remarks.
He was Maharashtra’s leader who spoke Hindi with errors. I never heard him speaking in English. He was known as ‘Mr. Clean’ and non-corrupt politician. Patil was always bothered about moral policing than controlling crime in the state. He banned dance bars, and landed in huge criticism. Inspite of all odds, he served two terms as deputy CM and Home Minister of Maharashtra. In a very short span of time, Maharashtra lost big political leaders like Vilasrao Deshmukh, Balasaheb Thackeray, Gopinath Munde and now R R Patil. All were prominent players in the state politics.