Senior Congress leader AR Antulay passes away

antulay_ARCongress veteran A. R. Antulay, the first Muslim Chief Minister of Maharashtra who had to resign in the wake of ‘Cement scandal’, died on Tuesday after a prolonged illness. He was 85.

Antulay was the state’s Chief Minister from June 1980 to January 1982 and was Minority Affairs Minister in the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-I government.

The Congress veteran, who was suffering from kidney ailment, passed away at a private hospital this morning, family sources said. The funeral will be held in his native village in Raigad district of coastal Konkan on Wednesday.

No stranger to controversies, Antulay was forced to quit as chief minister by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi after Parliament was paralysed for days over the ‘Cements Scandal’ in the state.

He was accused of forcing builders to contribute, albeit through cheques, to the Indira Gandhi Pratibha Pratishtan, a trust he had set up, allegedly in exchange for quotas for cement which was then a controlled commodity.

A controversial figure with a reputation of being something of a maverick politician, Antulay had sparked outrage after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks by demanding a probe into the killing of Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, alleging a conspiracy by Hindu radicals connected to the Malegaon blast case.

The veteran Congressman and lawyer remained loyal to Indira Gandhi during the Emergency and its aftermath that when the party split in 1978, the new outfit under Gandhi was born at his residence.

He rose to prominence when he was rewarded with the chief ministership of Maharashtra in June 1980. Antulay succeeded Sharad Pawar, whose Progressive Democratic Front had toppled the Congress government led by Vasantdada Patil in July 1978.

After becoming the chief minister, Antulay was embroiled in the “Cement scandal”. He was forced to step down in January 1982 and was exonerated only after a 12-year-long legal journey that ended in the Supreme Court.

He was rehabilitated when he became Union Minister after the UPA government came to power.

Meanwhile, the state government on Tuesday declared a three-day mourning as a mark of respect to the departed leader.