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Maharashtra’s longest serving MLA Ganpatrao Deshmukh retires after 59 yrs in politics

Maharashtra’s longest serving public representative Ganpatrao Deshmukh, 93, has finally called it a day in the field of electoral politics.

On Sunday, Deshmukh announced that he will not contest the upcoming state assembly polls scheduled on October 21. Deshmukh who has been a member of the Maharashtra legislative assembly for 11 terms or 59 years from Sangole in Solapur district, also nominated his successor from the constituency.

Deshmukh, a member of the Peasants and Workers party (PWP), took the decision citing health reasons and limited eyesight. During a party meeting on Sunday, Deshmukh said that Bhausaheb Rupnar, will contest the upcoming polls from Sangole, the seat Deshmukh represented for six decades.

Known in the Solapur district as a successful businessman, Rupnar is the chairman and managing director of Fabtech, an engineering firm.

“I have been representing Sangole for six decades. Even today, if I contest the polls, I may win. However, it is important for me to stop now and allow others to take the party’s message and ideology to the grassroots,” said Deshmukh.

Jayant Patil, general secretary of PWP, said, “I insisted Aba (Ganpatrao Deshmukh) to contest the polls, but he is firm on his decision.”

Deshmukh on the other hand said that even though he is 93, he will work hard to ensure Rupnar’s win in the constituency.

As the nonagenarian announced his decision to take a break from electoral politics, disappointed workers left the party meet.

Hindustan Times was the first to report about Deshmukh’s decision on not contesting the polls in its edition on November 13, 2018.

In his 59 years of electoral politics, Deshmukh contested 13 elections, but lost only twice – in 1995 and 1972. In 1995, he lost to Congress candidate by a margin of 192 votes in a bitterly fought contest for Sangole, which is known as perennial drought-prone region.

In last election held in 2014, Deshmukh defeated Shahajibapu Pail by over 25,000 voters.

Interestingly, during his 11 terms, Deshmukh was mostly in the opposition barring 1978 and 1999 when he briefly served as a minister – first in the Sharad Pawar-led government and second during time when PWP supported the then Congress-Nationalist Congress Party led government.

“As I was mostly in the opposition, I had to struggle to get various government projects in my constituency where water scarcity is a major issue,” Deshmukh, who is credited with Tembhu irrigation project that has helped local farmers of Sangole, had told Hindustan Times during an interview last year. The project has helped irrigate more than 50,000 acres in Sangole constituency.

As the local farmers consistently backed Deshmukh, the opposition parties including Congress, BJP and Shiv Sena could not create any strong option against him. “Deshmukh did not campaign much during his elections. The locals always backed him,” said Kishore Kulkarni, a political observer.

Known for his simplicity, Deshmukh’s total assets during 2014 was ₹2.2 crore which includes fix deposits in banks, shares and land. “Since I could not bear the expense of the campaign during polls, my supporters collected money and spent it for canvassing,” said Deshmukh, an Arts and Law graduate.

When Deshmukh completed 50 years in electoral politics, he was felicitated by house members in the Maharashtra legislative assembly.

Another Indian politician who had a long electoral career was Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief M Karunanidhi. The Tamil politician had 61 years of electoral career in which he was elected as the MLA 13 times, without a break.