Graft charges stuck, but Antulay was known as Mr Efficient

Written By Unknown on Rabu, 03 Desember 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: From an ordinary social worker in the 1940s, Congress leader Abdul Rehman Antulay, popularly known as Barrister Antulay, rose to become chief minister of Maharashtra and later cabinet member at the Centre, but his political career spanning over seven decades was marred by controversies and charges of corruption.

Antulay, who died in Mumbai after a prolonged illness at age 85 on Tuesday, began his political career in 1945 as a social worker in Raigad district. A barrister-at-law, he was first elected to the assembly in 1962 and then in 1976. In between, he was minister for law and justice and housing. In 1976, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha. Impressed by his performance and oratory, Indira Gandhi appointed him chief minister of Maharashtra in June 1980. That was a moment of crowning glory for the Muslim leader. But his joy was short-lived as he had to quit after being held guilty in the cement scam. Justice Bhaktavar Lentin, who heard separate petitions filed by socialist leader P B Samant and BJP councillor Ramdas Nayak, found him guilty.

Antulay drafted a scheme to mobilize funds for a trust called the Indira Gandhi Pratibha Pratisthan. Though it was a private trust floated by Antulay, an impression was created that it was set up by the government. There were donations from leading builders and sugar barons. It was proposed that the trust would provide financial assistance to people.

Cement, in short supply then, was controlled by the government. CM Antulay had proposed that if a developer wanted additional cement, he'd have to donate Rs 40 per bag to the trust, while it was made mandatory for sugar cooperatives to donate Rs 2.5 per tonne of sugar to the trust. According to reports, a leading builder from Mumbai had then paid the trust Rs 5.6 lakh.

In his order in June 1982, Justice Lentin said there was a nexus and quid pro quo between the trust and the builders in allocation of cement. Antulay was finally cleared of the charges by SC but had to wait for political rehabilitation till 1995, when, after he won the LS poll, he was made health minister at the Centre. He was later made minority affairs minister in the Manmohan Singh government in 2004. Ashish Joshi, first nodal officer on Sachar report implementation, said, "He got cleared all minority schemes. He was a quick decision-maker."

After the 26/11 terror attacks, Antulay again courted controversy by suggesting the death of IPS officer Hemant Karkare could be linked to the 2006 Malegaon blast he was probing.

Once, when the home ministry refused to furnish details to the minority ministry to a Parliament question on steps taken after the Kandhamal riots, Antulay wrote on the file that action should be taken against minister Shivraj Patil. Only a personal intervention by an efficient secretary persuaded him to nix the noting.

At the farewell cabinet meet after losing the 2009 polls, sources said Antulay told the PM he would not have lost but for "our own people", all the while staring at NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

In contrast, he held back reply by a year to a letter by Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray slamming the Sachar report as "anti-national" that the ministry felt deserved a response. That was his chemistry with Thackeray.

An efficient administrator, Antulay was one of the best CMs Maharashtra had. He had social commitment and was instrumental in drafting a scheme for old people which was adopted by most Congress-ruled states.

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