A turnout of at least three to four lakh mourners gathered to witness Vilasrao Deshmukh’s final journey at his birthplace Babhalgaon in Latur district yesterday. Deshmukh’s last rites were witnessed by many eminent personalities from state and national politics, many of whom were seen bidding the former chief minister a tearful adieu.
The crowds swelled to such proportions that the traffic management system soon collapsed, with vehicles choking the roads in Latur, especially those leading to the village of Babhalgaon.
Deshmukh’s untimely death has been received with shock, and many supporters were seen weeping inconsolably as they paid their last respects to Deshmukh.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi also reached the village situated approximately eight kms from Latur, to bid their final goodbyes to their trusted partyman.
Mortal remains of the departed leader reached at Latur on a special aircraft from Chennai. A huge crowd had gathered at the airport in vehicles that made a three-km long queue on the road.
People thronged both sides of the road as the procession with Deshmukh’s mortal remains passed through. The funeral was attended by political biggies such as Sharad Pawar, Sushilkumar Shinde, Praful Patel, Nitin Gadkari, Gopinath Munde, Prithviraj Chavan, Ajit Pawar, Chhagan Bhujbal, R R Patil, Raj Thackeray.
Ministers, MPs, MLAs and top bureaucrats, as well as Bollywood personalities such as Vivek Oberoi, Karan Johar, Sajid Khan were present. Most of the state’s ministers, who had traveled to their respective districts for Independence Day celebrations, made it to the funeral in special planes and choppers.
The Latur airport, which can park only four planes at a time, was given permission for the landing of 33 planes yesterday. Many of the planes had to be diverted to Nanded and Bidar.
A plane carrying Pawar and Shinde was diverted to Bidar in bordering Karnataka, delaying their arrival. A plane carrying RDD Minister Jayant Patil was not allowed to land and forced to return after flying all the back way to Mumbai. Over 15 planes carrying dignitaries were denied permission, a Congress office bearer said.
Despite elaborate arrangements made for the funeral under the leadership of district guardian minister Satej alias Bunty Patil, the arrival of so many dignitaries threw the system out of gear. Dilip Deshmukh, younger brother of Vilasrao Deshmukh, had to make an appeal for peace and discipline among the mourners.