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Obituary: Murli Deora

Obituary: Murli Deora
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Obituary: Murli Deora. Around 12 years ago, when industrialist tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani was battling for life in a Mumbai hospital, close family friend and Congress leader Murli Deora virtually served as a one-man army, keeping the prying media and politicians at bay.

Mumbai: Around 12 years ago, when industrialist tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani was battling for life in a Mumbai hospital, close family friend and Congress leader Murli Deora virtually served as a one-man army, keeping the prying media and politicians at bay.

The Ambani family almost seemed dependent on Deora as he handled all media queries and calls from industry czars. He managed it with his finesse, firmness and courtesy for several days.

Ambani's sons - now industrial tycoons Mukesh and Anil - regarded and addressed Deora as 'uncle', so deep was their respect for him.

Deora, 77, breathed his last Monday morning after a prolonged illness, bringing to an end an era in which business, politics and glamour mixed headily for everybody's mutual benefit.

Starting his political career as a Congress municipal corporator in the mid-1960s for two terms, and later a term as a member of the legislative council in Maharashtra, Deora quickly drew attention of his party bosses and went on to become a four-time Lok Sabha member and three-term Rajya Sabha member.

In between, he became the country's petroleum minister, serving with aplomb and a tenure which is remembered even today.

Deora became close to three generations of the Gandhi family, starting with late prime minister Indira Gandhi.

He subsequently became one of the key confidants and advisors of her son, late Rajiv Gandhi, followed by his widow Sonia Gandhi and their son Rahul Gandhi.

In his political career spanning nearly five decades, Deora served as the president of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee for a whopping 22 years.

Known for his fund-raising abilities, Deora had on one occasion harboured an ambition to become the treasurer of the All India Congress Committee, but his moves were nullified by late Sitaram Kesri with whom he locked horns.

His tenure as MRCC chief is credited with successfully checking the growth and influence of the rival Shiv Sena in the commercial capital, though the latter, in alliance with the BJP, managed to control the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai.

As a key party functionary, 'Murli bhai', as he was known, was on back-slapping terms with top corporate heads, media barons, leaders of rival political parties and celebrities.

One of the few politicians who realised the influence of the media, Deora respected all journalists.

Besides the corporate and the media, he also maintained excellent relations in diplomatic circles and personally knew many global leaders.

At the international level, he was active in various fora, including serving as international president of the Parliamentarians for Global Action in 1995-96 and later as India chief in 2002-2004, and the following year as vice president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The Congress rewarded him with a berth in the union cabinet in 2006, as the petroleum and natural gas minister.

Later, he was assigned corporate affairs for a year, even as his son Milind, a suave and young Gen-Next politician, started to get into his father's shoes.

Deora also served in various state and central committees, and in organisations like Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) as director.

Deora, survived by his wife Hema, sons Milind and Mukund, was cremated with state honours at the Chandanwadi crematorium Monday in the presence of a huge crowd of mourners and admirers.

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