INDIA’S second-longest serving legislator and Peasants & Workers Party (PWP) senior leader Ganpatrao Annasaheb Deshmukh, who passed away on Friday, was cremated with full State honours in Sangola here on Saturday afternoon, official sources said. Deshmukh, 95, breathed his last at a private hospital following a brief illness, his family said. As his mortal remains were taken from Solapur to Sangola on Saturday morning, thousands of people including farmers and labourers with moist eyes lined up on the roads, bidding their final adieu, many raising chants of ‘Ganpatrao Deshmukh, Amar Rahe’. At Sangola, where his body draped in the National Tricolour was kept, thousands turned up to pay their last respects, many bowing with folded hands and catching his final glimpse. Deshmukh, an epitome of humility and simplicity, had been elected to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from the Sangola seat a staggering 11 times since 1962, as a PWP candidate, without ever defecting to any other party.
He also lost elections twice in his seven-decade long political career -- first in 1972 and then in 1995 -- the second time vanquished by his own grandson but with a wafer-thin margin of around 190 votes. However, he comfortably sailed through the so-called ‘BJP-wave’ in 2014 which washed away toral politics mainly on grounds of his advanced age. That year (2019), the prestigious Sangola seat was bagged by Shiv Sena’s Shahajibapu R. Patil -- who had unsuccessfully contested against Deshmukh six times in the past -- trouncing Deshmukh’s grandson and PWP candidate Aniket Deshmukh by around 750 votes. Till date, he remains the second longest-serving legislator in India after the record of the late Tamil Nadu CM and DMK supremo, M. Karunanidhi. Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, and Leaders of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis and Pravin Darekar condoled the demise of Deshmukh. Other top leaders like PWP President Jayant Patil, Shiv Sena Minister Eknath Shinde, NCP President Sharad Pawar, State NCP President and Minister Jayant Patil, ministers Dilip Walse-Patil, Nawab Malik, Dr Jitendra Awhad, Congress State President Nana Patole, Ministers Balasaheb Thorat, Ashok Chavan, former CM Prithviraj Chavan, Samajwadi Party President Abu Asim Azmi, leading farmers groups and workers organizations leaders have expressed grief over the passing away of the veteran leader. Even the social media paid glowing tributes to Deshmukh and many recounted anecdotes of his simplicity in public life, his commitment to a single party and ideology all his life compared with the ‘defectors’ who are in fashion in recent years.