Antulay was a tough administrator
Wednesday, 3 December 2014 - 6:25am IST | Agency: DNA
The stormy petrel of Maharashtra's politics and its only Muslim chief minister, Barrister Abdul Rehman Antulay, passed away on Tuesday. The hardcore Indira and Sanjay Gandhi loyalist played a major role in the formation of the Congress (I) and was chief minister from 1980 to 1982 when he promised to bring back warrior-king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's legendary 'Bhavani' sword back from the UK. He had to resign after a controversy over grant of cement quotas.[to builders]
The outspoken Antulay, 85, was known to be a tough administrator and aka Abbasid Caliph Harun al Rashid went around Mumbai at night incognito with Shiv Sena leader Pramod Navalkar and police officials to monitor the law and order situation. He resigned as the chief minister after falling foul of the powerful Maratha lobby, which controls the levers of power in Maharashtra.
During his tenure, Antulay, a Barrister from London's Lincoln's Inn, changed the uniform of the police from the previous half pants to a full pant and created new districts like Latur and renamed Kulaba as Raigad. Antulay, a former Union minister, who had kidney ailments, passed away at Breach Candy Hospital of old age.
Born to Abdul Gaffar and Zohrabi at Ambet in Raigad, "Antulay saheb" was one of the few Maharashtrian and Konkani Muslims to make their mark in the state's politics. Antulay was educated at Ismael Yusuf College. Elder brother Ataullah, who worked in Africa and later, Ghulam Muhammed Kardane "Nawabsaheb" from Srivardhan, helped his education.
Antulay lost the 1957 assembly elections and headed the Youth Congress from 1960 to 1962, when he defeated freedom fighter Nanasaheb Purohit from Srivardhan. An MLA till 1976, he had a base even in local Brahmins. Antulay was a minister of state and later a minister from 1969 to 1976 and his associates recall his strict demeanour with the state's entrenched officialdom.
Antulay was a Rajya Sabha MP when Indira picked him as the chief minister to cut Maratha leaders down to size. He was supported by close friend Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in the assembly by-polls from Srivardhan.
As the chief minister, Antulay put up Shivaji Maharaj's portrait in Mantralaya and his promises regarding the Bhavani sword were seen as attempts to woo the Maratha lobby. The maverick, who had excellent command over Marathi, Hindi, Urdu, English and Arabic, had to step down in 1982 after allegations of favouring donors to the Indira Gandhi Pratibha Prathisthan in grant of cement quotas.
Other controversies involving Antulay were his altercation with the police at Vadkhal naka and his reference to former deputy prime minister Yashwantrao Chavan as a "kalank" (blot) on Maharashtra.
He penned a scathing indictment of the Mahajan report which overrode Maharashtra's claims on Marathi speaking areas of Karnataka like Belgaum. Antulay was a four term Lok Sabha MP from Raigad and lost once from Aurangabad. He was the health minister under PV Narasimha Rao and the minority welfare minister under Manmohan Singh in UPA-I when he kicked up a storm by alluding to the role of Hindu fundamentalists in the death of ATS chief Hemant Karkare in the 26/11 terror attacks. Antulay's 2009 defeat from Raigad- Ratnagiri by Shiv Sena's Anant Geete marked the end of his political career.
Former associate and BJP leader Habib Fakih remembers Antulay as "a highly secular man and devotee of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj," and noted how he pushed for Marathi to be taught in Urdu schools to mainstream Muslims.
However, at the end of his career, Antulay sounded bitter towards the Congress, and had supported the PWP's Ramesh Kadam against estranged disciple Sunil Tatkare (NCP) for the Lok Sabha after his traditional constituency was surrendered to the NCP by the Congress. Speaking to dna, Antulay had called Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi "immature" and attacked the Congress, which was formed in his Delhi bungalow, as a party of "ungrateful" people.