NATIONAL

S.B. Chavan, the tallest leader from Marathwada

MUMBAI, FEB. 26. The former Union Minister and Maharashtra Chief Minister, Shankarrao Bhaurao Chavan, who died here today, started his career as president of the Nanded Town Municipality.

He was not only the tallest leader from Maharashtra's Marathwada region but also the only person from the State to hold several key portfolios at the Centre — External, Defence, Home and Finance at different points of time. He was also Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. But he is remembered more as the Union Home Minister when the Babri Masjid was demolished.

Mr. Chavan was keeping a low profile of late due to his age, which physically enfeebled him, but he did not miss an opportunity to make his views known on inter-party and intra-party politics and saw his son, Ashok Chavan, a long-time legislator and minister in Maharashtra, grow. Mr. Chavan's son-in-law, Bhaskarrao Khatgaonkar, too is an MLA and former Minister.

Known fondly among his associates as the ``Headmaster'' for his stern and bureaucratic approach to issues in public life, Mr. Chavan was twice Chief Minister of Maharashtra and, in his last term in the mid-80s, paid dearly for attempting to change irrigation supplies to sugarcane, a holy-cow in the State. He did not like using most of the water for sugarcane.

He had once told The Hindu during his last term as Chief Minister: ``I am often accused of not looking after the constituencies of my partymen. I am a Chief Minister because of the party but, at the same time, I need the support of the Opposition MLAs as well, because their constituencies too are in my State. I am a Chief Minister for all Maharashtra, not only for Congress (I) constituencies.''

Mr. Chavan was a staunch Congressman, except for a brief spell (1978-79) when he helped found and run the Maharashtra Samajwadi Congress, in association with Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil.