Veteran political leader of Peasants & Workers Party (PWP), an ex-cabinet minister and a four-time legislator, Prof Narayan Dnyandeo Patil – the brother-in-law of Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar – passed away following a brief illness, party leaders said here on Monday.
Battling from a recent brain haemorrhage, he breathed his last at a private hospital here early on Monday, aged 93. He is survived by his wife Saroj – who is the sister of Sharad Pawar and Pratap Pawar.
Earlier, the fiery leader – considered the progressive and rational face of state politics in over seven decades of public life – was infected by Covid-19 and had recovered from it despite his advanced age.
He dedicated his life to the cause of farmers, peasants, mill-workers, casual labourers, the deprived and downtrodden in society and served as Maharashtra Member of Legislative Council for four terms.
Prof Patil served as Cooperation minister from 1978-1990 in the Progressive Democratic Front government headed by Pawar when he became Chief Minister for the first time, as the PWP was an ally.
Top leaders including Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, ministers Jayant Patil, Nawab Malik, Ashok Chavan, Balasaheb Thorat, and other dignitaries mourned the passing of Prof Patil.
Besides the Pawar family, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, State Congress president Nana Patole, All India Kisan Sabha’s Prof Ashok Dhawale, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana’s Raju Shetti, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders of opposition Devendra Fadnavis (Assembly) and Pravin Darekar (Council) and other prominent personalities paid tributes to Prof Patil.
An associate and Shiv Sena farmer leader Kishore Tiwari said he fought for farmers’ rights and compensation till his last breath, particularly as the cause was dearest to his heart for decades.
However, despite close family connections with the powerful Pawar clan, Prof Patil maintained his independent identity, never compromised on his principles and charted his own path with political convictions, said a close colleague, Dr Vaishali Patil.
Born on July 15, 1929 in a peasant family in the small Dhavali village in Sangli, Patil completed his matriculation and then joined the Rajaram College in Kolhapur for his graduation.
Later he joined Willingdon College in Sangli for his MA in Economics and acquired an LLB degree from Pune University before serving as a professor at Chhatrapati Shivaji College, Satara, and then became the Principal of KBP College in Islampur, Sangli.
While serving the Shivaji University Kolhapur (SUK), Prof Patil served as a Dean and Senate Member.
Much before his academic career, in 1948, he joined the PWP, to which he belonged till the end, became an MLC for four terms, served as the General Secretary and later as Convener (1999-2002) of the Democratic Front Government of Congress-Nationalist Congress Party which ruled the state for 15 years from 1999-2014.
Prof Patil was appointed head of the legal committee of the Maharashtra government to examine the border dispute with Karnataka in mid-2000s.
Outspoken, intelligent and a good orator from his early youth, Prof Patil first joined the Shetkari Kamgar Party – which was founded barely two weeks before India won Independence – for rights and justice to farmers and labourers.
The idealist, who idolised legends like Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil, Karl Marx, envisioned an ‘exploitation-free and equitable progressive society without distinction between the haves and have-nots’.