‘His advice was turning point in my career’
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"My political adviser, a generous and noble friend" is how BJP's Gopinath Munde remembers former Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. The two began their careers in Marathwada, and had strikingly similar political journeys. Both entered the Maharashtra legislature first in 1980, and Parliament in 2009.
The Beed MP said, "His sudden death had come as a shock. The state has lost a great Congress leader but I have lost a dear friend," Munde told The Indian Express.
He said he last met Deshmukh a month ago, and he looked weak. Two days before he was admitted to Breach Candy for tests, Deshmukh had spoken to him. "He said he had some problem in his stomach and was undergoing treatment," Munde said. "But he continued to attend Parliament and the pain never showed on his face. He was always jovial."
Munde said he first met Deshmukh in jail during Emergency in 1975. Vilasrao was sarpanch then, and Munde had lost a Vidhan Sabha election.
"He advised me to contest zilla parishad elections. I was mentally not prepared, but he convinced me and I won. In 1980, both of us won Vidhan Sabha elections. On the first day of the Assembly, he reminded me that the zilla parishad win had been the stepping stone to Vidhan Sabha. "His advice was the turning point in my political career," Munde recalled.
The fact that they belonged to political parties bitterly opposed to each other failed to affect their relationship for over three decades. Deshmukh, Munde said, was a leader who always worked for development, did not believe in political untouchability, kept in touch with rural politics, and above all, always valued his friendship, which even sharp differences expressed during assembly debates did not hurt. "I once said even Vaishali vahini (Deshmukh's wife) must be angry with the fact that he kept constant company of (fellow Congress leader) Kripashankar Singh. And he was rolling in the House laughing."
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