(Eds: Recasting first two paras) Ahmedabad, Jan 9 (PTI) A one-time journalist who went on to become chief minister of Gujarat four times, a master strategist whose famous 'KHAM' formula ensured a landslide victory for the Congress in 1985 -- Madhavsinh Solanki was a formidable politician of old school.
He stepped on the national stage when he became external affairs minister, but had to resign following a controversy over his meeting with the Swiss counterpart and remarks regarding the Bofors case probe.
The 93-year-old Congress veteran breathed his last at his residence in Gandhinagar on Saturday morning.
Solanki dominated politics in Gujarat before the rise of the BJP in the 1990s. Under his leadership the Congress had won 149 out of 182 seats in the state elections held in 1985, a record which still remains unbroken.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged Solanki's stature in his condolence tweet. 'Shri Madhavsinh Solanki Ji was a formidable leader, playing a key role in Gujarat politics for decades. He will be remembered for his rich service to society,' Modi said.
Born in a modest family in Piludra village in Bharuch district, Solanki started his career as a journalist with 'Gujarat Samachar' before joining politics.
He was first elected as MLA from the then Bombay state in 1957 when separate states of Gujarat and Maharashtra were yet to come into existence.
In 1975, Solanki became president of the Gujarat Congress unit, and after that, he never looked back.
He became chief minister in December 1976, but his tenure lasted only till 1977. However, Solanki got another chance in 1980.
His strategy of forging alliance of the Kshatriyas, Harijans, Adivasis (tribals) and Muslims -- 'KHAM' -- worked wonders for the Congress.
He resigned as CM in March 1985 in the wake of anti- quota protests triggered by his decision to clear reservation for OBCs. In the ensuing assembly elections, the Congress led by Solanki won an unprecedented 149 seats.
However, as the anti-quota agitation continued and turned into communal riots, Solanki once again resigned as chief minister in July 1985.
His fourth and last term as CM lasted from December 1989 to May 1990. Solanki had been the longest serving chief minister of the state before Narendra Modi.
Solanki is credited for introducing the mid-day meal scheme which was later adopted in primary schools in the entire country and for offering free education to girls.
Another big break in politics came for Solanki, when he became External Affairs Minister of India in June 1991.
However, he resigned in March 1992 in the wake of a controversy following his meeting with the then Switzerland foreign minister in Davos.
It was alleged that Solanki told his Swiss counterpart that the Bofors scam probe had not revealed anything and India's request for assistance to Switzerland had been made only due to political considerations.
Solanki also served as a two term MP of Rajya Sabha from Gujarat.
Paradoxically, the very KHAM formula of Solanki alienated upper caste Hindus from the Congress and became the reason for the rise of the BJP in the state in 1990s.
The BJP has been in power in Gujarat since 1995.
Solanki then chose life away from politics. In the last 18 years, Solanki pursued his interest in reading and promoting culture.
Former state Congress president Arjun Modhvadia recalled that Solanki was the first person to call him after Modhvadia delivered his first speech as MLA. 'He used to guide us like a mentor,' Modhvadia said.
Solanki's son Bharatsinh Solanki is a former Union minister. PTI PD NSK KRK KRK KRK KRK