The year 2012 stood witness to the passing away of some of the country’s iconic leaders, visionaries and statesmen who left behind a rich legacy and whose deaths created a void that can never be fulfilled. Among those were Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, former Prime Minister IK Gujral, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and former Union Minister KC Pant.
Hailed as the ‘Tiger of Maharashtra’, Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray breathed his last on November 17. The death of Bala Saheb, as he was popularly known, brought Mumbai- a city that never sleeps- to a standstill. His demise was the saddest moment for millions of Maharashtrians, who admired Bala Saheb’s brand of aggressive politics and revered him as the tallest leader of the Marathi Manoos. A writer and a cartoonist by profession, Bala Saheb was the staunch supporter of Marathi nationalism and completely changed the dynamics of Maharashtra politics in a career spanning five decades.
Hailed as people’s chief minister, Vilasrao Dagadojirao Deshmukh was one of the biggest faces of the Congress party in Maharashtra and a political craftsman par excellence. Beginning his political journey as `Sarpanch` of Babhalgaon village panchayat in 1974, Deshmukh was adept at turning challenges into opportunities. From the grassroots level, he slowly worked his way up in the Maharashtra politics and later became a member of the Legislative Assembly. He held several posts in the Maharashtra government before he was appointed chief minister of Maharashtra twice – from 1999 to 2003 and 2004 to 2008. The 67-year-old leader held coveted posts in the government of India as Union Minister and withered his share of controversies with dignity.
Former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, known as a gentleman in politics, passed away at the age of 92. Unlike his predecessors, he was not a popular leader, often preferring a quiet corner in the rough corridors of politics. However, it was his ability to make friends cutting across political lines that helped him stay afloat in various posts and finally elevated him to the post of Prime Minister.
His suave, affable mannerism and his expertise as a diplomat earned him international recognition as a Foreign Minister and later as Prime Minister of India. ‘Gujral Doctrine’ is an important highlight of his distinguished political career, which was largely based on late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s Panchsheel Doctrine, which has been a guiding light on India’s foreign policy.
Former Union Minister K C Pant, an eminent public figure and an able administrator, passed away at the age of 81. He had served under late Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and switched to BJP in the late 1990s. The son of Govind Ballabh Pant, a former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Union Minister under late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Pant held the portfolios of Defence, Finance, Energy and Steel among others. Pant also played the role of negotiator during the separate Telangana agitation in the 1970s and was instrumental in reaching of an agreement called `Mulki Rules` that gave prominence to recruitment of locals and ended the agitation.