The 5-year hiatus from power
The period from 1980-1995 was a time of meteoric rise in terms of Vilasrao's political presence. The only way for him was up ! It can be said that despite being part of a rebellious bid whose impact would be at highest level of CM, there was no slight impact whatsoever on Vilasrao's political stature. His image as a veteran and highly committed Congressman was now firmly established not only in political circles, but also the party leadership in New Delhi.
However, despite a strong political reputation, Vilasrao was in for a rude shock in the forthcoming Vidhan Sabha Elections in Year 1995, when he lost miserably from Latur Constituency for the first time in his life.
Some circles spoke of this incident as a deliberate attempt to thwart Vilasrao's rising sun in power. It was believed that some of his own party leaders had secretly supported his rival camp and helped them win at the cost of Vilasrao.
Holding a ministerial post at the time, Vilasrao hadn't the faintest clue that he will feign a defeat in the elections, more so as most of his compatriots had also secured a seat in spite of it being an Opposition (Shivsena-BJP) dominated government.
How could a constituency, whom he had tirelessly served since 1972, suddenly neglected him is What Vilasrao fails to understand ? Today, however, the very same people have voted him and his son into power is a matter of absolute trust and grass-root level contact that an MP enjoys with his people.
After losing office and being deprived of much activity in Mumbai, Vilasrao shifted his focus on Latur and Marathwada. Recalling the incident, Vilasrao dubs it as defeat by 'accident'. His logic being that if public opinion is against a leader, there is no chance that he will come back to power. If the people of Latur were against Vilasrao, as it is being made out by the election result - there was no chance the very same people would vote him back to power again. In light of this, the theory that there was a deliberate plan to manipulate results and vote him out of power also doesn't hold much water for Vilasrao. While sharing his views with Veteran Journalist Raju Parulekar on E-TV's Samwaad show, Vilasrao had categorically underlined his stand on this. In the aftermath of his unforeseen setback, Vilasrao took things in control and once again, mustered his will to regain lost ground in politics.
He took up several development issues connected to Latur District, including modernising irrigation facilities and sugar co-operatives. Speaking about this crucial 5-year period, he says : It takes courage to digest a political defeat. And I am one of the few, who firmly supports this belief that one must never lose one's balance with success just as one must never lose patience in times of failure. So, accepting defeat and giving in to the situation was really, out of question for me, at the time"
However, during the same time, Vilasrao committed a political blunder that should not have happened as he himself admits. Speaking on the same, he says :"I acknowledge the fact that it was a mistake to contest the Vidhan Parishad elections at that time. Why does a person rebel ? It was not my situation to rebel against a party which had given my everything, I had no room for complaint but some times are such that knowingly-unknowingly one makes a mistake. It was such a mistake and I had to bear the natural consequences. That is all I can say."
On the issue whether his defeat in Vidhan Parishad elections was a planned political coup by vested interests, Vilasrao agrees that it was rightly so - as compared to his own mistake of contesting Vidhan Parishad elections at the time. After his removal from the party's rosters, he went into a temporary hibernation. During an interview with a Saamna reporter, Vilasrao said "they may remove me from the Congress Party, but they cannot remove the Party from my soul".
His hiatus from Congress, however, was sure to be shortlived. Irrespective of the
fact that he was not part of the Congress at the time, his friends and compatriots were very much there and one day, Vilasrao was sure that - he too will rejoin them. He knew that for him, there would never be an alternative to Congress. Later, it would dawn on him that his supposed betrayal and defeat in Vidhan Parishad Elections was, in fact, a blessing in disguise. For, had he won a Vidhan Sabha seat at the time, he would never get an opportunity to become the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
After the realization of his blunder had sunk in, Vilasrao took calculated steps towards retracting his lost position in Congress Party by interacting with leaders like then Prime Minister Shri Narsimha Rao, Senior leader Shri Shankar Rao Chavan, Party President Shri Sitaram Kesari and his old friend, Shri Sushilkumar Shinde. His efforts paid off in due time.
Destiny had it in store that the injustice done towards Vilasrao would be undone and almost on cue, just after his come-back into the Congress party in the year 1999, Vilasrao went on to become the Chief Minister of Maharashtra under circumstances that were as difficult as they seemed unpredictable.
In the period between 1995-1999, Vilasrao had focused all his energies towards development activities, thereby boosting the overall morale of party workers. During these crucial periods, the excellent modernization efforts initiated by him for the sugar co-operatives at Manjara had achieved excellent results with global acclaim.
The Manjara Cooperative Sugar Factory had won a tally of 34 international awards for excellent product quality and organizational efficiency.
The exemplary achievements of Manjara Cooperative Sugar Factory and also, that of its neighbouring Vikas Sugar Cooperative, established by Vilasrao's son Amit Deshmukh have truly became national case-studies in terms of modernization in sugar co-operatives in India.
Amongst the other notable developments initiated by Vilasrao at Manjara Cooperative Sugar Factory was to implement completion automation and computerization of its operations in addition to launching wireless communication at the plant.
In addition to the factory, Vilasrao also established the Manjara Charitable and Social Welfare Trust. As part of the Trust initiatives, a total of three educational universities were established in Latur in addition to an Engineering and Technology Institute near Airoli, Navi Mumbai. All the institutions are running efficiently and greatly fulfilling the educational and vocational needs of the citizens.
Besides these, Vilasrao also established the Manjara Agricultural Science Centre as a hub of taking crucial agricultural knowhow to the farmers in the Latur District region.
In this way, Vilasrao had managed to transform the tribulations faced during the electoral defeat of 1995 into a positive platform for his growth by declining to blame others and resorting to introspection and thereafter, taking concrete steps to turn the situation in his favour. With a body of focused work in cooperative sector and mobilization of workers across all the activities, he was able to regain public confidence and rapport with the masses.
Vilasrao took active interest and focused all his energies on the development and consolidation of Manjara Co-operative Sugar Factory, Manjara Charitable Trust and its diverse initiatives and Latur Zilla Parishad.
With a view to take developmental activities, emanating from these key institutions, Vilasrao spawned and motivated an army of party workers across the district, which was ably led by his longtime associate Advocate Shri Babruvan Kale, his brother Shri Diliprao Deshmukh and his son Shri Amit Deshmukh.
Together this core team came forward to work wonders in Latur. For instance, probably the first flyover project built in district place was made by the MSRDA in Latur. Today, the infrastructure in the region has flourished greatly and covers : Air transport,
Broad gauge railway, Modern telecommunication networks, excellent educational infrastructure and so on. In this way, in keeping with his policy, Vilasrao has continued to promise and deliver the best infrastructure and services with the sole aim to benefit the ordinary citizens of Latur District in his capacity as a leader of the masses.
By undertaking exemplary achievements in the Latur and Marathwada regions
that stressed on performance more than promises; Vilasrao had won over public confidence. In this way, by sheer patience and dedication that was evident in his remarkable work for public betterment, Vilasrao was able to erase the stigma of his 1995 defeat and it had now become impossible for both the public and the party leadership to ignore the man – whose time had come ! Naturally, the verdict of the majority and both the political parties in power during the time was in favour of the man who most rightfully befitted to take on the mantle of Maharashtra's new CM in 1999.
Vilasrao Deshmukh had arrived, again.