Vasantdada Patil (November 13, 1917 – March 1, 1989) was an Indian politician from Sangli, Maharashtra. He was known as the first modern Maratha strongman and first mass leader in Maharashtra’s politics.
He was the Chief Minister of Maharashtra from May 17, 1977 to July 18, 1978 and again from February 2, 1983 to June 1, 1985. He also served as Governor of Rajasthan from 1985 to 1987.
Born on 13 Nov 1917 at ‘Padmale’ 3 km (1.9 mi) from Sangli, his native village. He studied up to the vernacular final. Then he took interest in his farm.
He was one of the young campaigner of Dhulappa Bhaurao Navale’s election of local board in 1937 who was congress candidate. In 1940 Dhulappa Navale suggested Vasantdada’s name for Tasgaon Taluka Congress secretory to Adv. Kutte & to R.P.Patil. Vasantdada took part in freedom struggle. In 1942, Mahatma Gandhi started the Satyagraha movement. Vinoba Bhave was the first satyagrahi & from Tasgaon Dhulappa Navale was first then was Vasantdada & V.S.Paage. For this he was jailed by the British government. In jail, he came under the influence of people like Babasaheb Kher, Sardar Patel and others.
He was also influenced by Netaji Subhashchandra Bose, and believed that satyagraha, morchas or people’s movements alone would not get freedom. So he looted railways and merchants (this was to compensate for the money they needed to keep the freedom struggle alive), and got guns and revolvers from Goa. Many criminal cases were filed against him. The British government declared a prize of Rs.1000 for him. He tried to escape from the jail but was badly injured. He was then sentenced to imprisonment for 13 years.
On 25 April 1946 he was released and was welcomed by Sangli people. After Independence he started working on farmers’ problems. He established a Market Committee in 1951, with the main intention of giving proper prices to agriculture products. In 1958, he with his friends Dhulappa Bhaurao Navale,Rambhau Arwade,Abasaheb Shinde,Shankarao Shinde,Abasheb Kulkarni(Khebudkar) started the largest Co-operative Sugar factory on 90 acres (360,000 m2) of land. In 1960, he started an Industrial Society on 135 acres (0.55 km2) land. ITI were started to give technical training to youth. He made efforts to increase irrigation in Sangli. In 1960 he became the chief promoter of the Groundnut Processors Co-operative Society.
In the field of education he was Chairman of Latthe Education Society. He started Miraj Medical College, Civil hospital, Akashwani (All India Radio station) at Sangli.
While active in politics from 1937, he was first appointed a Minister from 1972 until 1976 under Chief Minister Vasantrao Naik. In 1976 he was dropped from the Maharashtra Cabinet. He was the first minister to oppose the reservations on the basis of the caste system. This was in accordance to the guidelines of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar[clarification needed]. Due to this, he had to face the wrath of the so-called secular Indian National Congress. He was very disappointed, but overcoming his disappointment, he became Chief Minister of Maharashtra three times between 1976 to 1985.
He was also elected as a member of 7th Lok Sabha from Sangli (Lok Sabha constituency) in 1980.
Vasantdada Patil made great contributions to the educational field. Before 1983, there were few engineering and technical colleges in Maharashtra. Hence, most of the students were going to other states, like Karnataka, for studies. So, Vasantdada Patil passed a bill to create private engineering and technical colleges in Maharashtra. Today, because of him, Maharashtra has become centre for engineering and technical education and students all over come here for studies. His step has fostered the industrial growth of Maharashtra which still remains hard to match.
In 1985 he was embroiled in a public dispute with a Deputy Commissioner of BMC, G R Khairnar, for having demolished his son’s hotel “Step In”. Khairnar eventually became a hero for taking on politicians, subsequently with Sharad Pawar. This dispute, meanwhile, led to the ultimate discrediting of the Congress rule in large, and combined with other issues, gave the Shiv Sena-BJP combine an upper hand in the following elections.
His elder son Prakashbapu Vasantdada Patil and his grandson Pratik Prakashbapu Patil are former MP from Sangli.
Vasantadada had a vast friend circle,but few friends very close, among them were Dhulappa Navale,V.S.Page,Charudatta (Charubhai) Shah,Sampatrao Mane & Vittal Patil.
His second wife, Shalinitai Patil, has been an MLA from Koregaon, Satara district. Shalinitai Patil joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in 1999, but was expelled for her opposition to reservation of 27.5% for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the central academic institutes such as Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIM). However, she later declared that Marathas were too big a community for any political party to displease, and said “… the economically backward classes across all communities should be given reservation. At least 50 per cent of Maharashtra’s population needs quotas.
Vasantdada Patil died on 1 March 1989.