Veteran Congress leader A R Antulay, during his short term as Maharashtra Chief Minister, was known for his quick decision-making and also introduced several innovative measures while in office.
“Delays in implementation of decisions were not acceptable to him. He was instrumental in initiating the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana, monthly financial aid to destitute and poor people and also MLA pension. Similarly, the housing facilities for MLAs in Mumbai was also his brain child,” a senior Congress leader said today.
Born on February 9, 1929, at a village in Maharashtra’s Raigad district, Antulay, who studied law in the UK, was active in Congress since his younger days and rose from the district level to become MPCC General Secretary when former Chief Minister Vasantdada Patil was the state unit president.
Antulay, a loyalist of former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi, later moved to the AICC as General Secretary.
He was a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from 1962 to 1976 from Srivardhan constituency in Raigad, during which time he served in the state government as Minister of State and Cabinet Minister, holding several portfolios.
He was a member of Rajya Sabha from 1976 to 1980. In 1980, he was again elected to the Maharashtra Assembly and served as Chief Minister of the state for a short term from June 1980 to January 1982.
He was forced to resign as Chief Minister in 1982 following allegations of taking donations from builders for Indira Gandhi Pratishthan trust, one of several trust funds he had established and controlled, in exchange of receiving more cement than the quota allotted to them by the government. However, the Supreme Court had later cleared him of the allegations.
The leader again got elected in 1985 to the state Assembly and remained until 1989, when he was elected to the 9th Lok
Sabha from Kolaba, which later came to be known as Raigad.
He was re-elected to the 10th Lok Sabha in 1991.
From June 1995 to May 1996, he was Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, and from February to May 1996 he was given an additional in-charge of Water Resources.
In 1996, he was re-elected to the 11th Lok Sabha, and in 2004 he was elected to the 14th Lok Sabha.
He was Union Minister for Minority Affairs in Manmohan Singh’s UPA-I government.
After the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, he stoked controversy by saying that the death of Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare in the attack, may have been related to his investigation of the 2006 Malegaon blasts.
Though recently he was not active in politics after his defeat in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, Antulay virtually rebelled against Congress by extending his support to Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) nominee Ramesh Kadam in the Raigad constituency during the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year.
The Congress stalwart’s decision to challenge the party leadership was following the Congress’ move to give away the Raigad seat to its then ally NCP.
Antulay was quite upset over the Raigad seat ticket being given to NCP without consulting him.
Notably, NCP leader Sunil Tatkare lost from the seat by a narrow margin to Shiv Sena’s Anant Geete in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.