It’s like an oasis in the middle of the desert that’s rural Maharashtra. Located about 10 kilometres away from Latur city, Bhabalgaon — the ancestral village of Vilasrao Deshmukh — has huge approach roads, is dotted with pucca houses, hardly faces any power cuts, and has at least one person from almost every family working with some government organisation.
“We are a hundred per cent sure that Vilasrao will come back all hale and hearty, and will share an omelette with us,” said Gyanoba Gomare, a local resident and Deshmukh’s school friend.
The union minister’s family abode is no less than a manor. From the outside, its massive walls remind one of Shivaji’s Sinhagad fort. Yesterday, the house — like the village — bore a deserted look, except two policemen guarding it. Relatives and friends were away at various religious ceremonies being held for the Congress leader.
MiD DAY found Manikrao Deshmukh, whom, locals say, Vilasrao considers his elder brother, leaving for Pandharpur with a huge delegation from the village, to perform a mahabhisek. “We are certain Vilasrao will be back here soon. His health’s improving now. We didn’t go to see him at the hospital, as we do not want to crowd that place. Already several VIPs have gathered there. We will wait for his safe return to our village,” said Manikrao.
Down memory lane
We also caught up with Gyanoba Gomare and Venkat Marke. Both studied with Vilasrao at the village primary school. Marke recounted how all of them, including Vilasrao, would go swimming to an adjacent pond after school. “He loves non-vegetarian food. When we were young, we would be served delicious omelettes at his place. He loved having omelettes,” said Gomare.
Marke narrated how the former CM would never let any of his friends wait for him in a queue. “During Dussehra, huge crowds would gather to meet him. Police would stop many, but he would tell them, ‘let my people come in. They are my people and won’t harm me’,” Marke said.
The villagers also conveyed to us that in his childhood, the union minister spent a lot of time playing the tabla and harmonium. “Even now, whenever there’s a musical ceremony, he makes time for it. He loves music,” said Marke.