Ahmedabad, Jan 9 (PTI) A scribe-turned-politician who went on to become CM of Gujarat on four occasions, a master strategist whose famous 'KHAM' formula of social engineering ensured a landslide victory for the Congress in 1985 and an avid reader--Madhavsinh Solanki wore many hats in his career which included a brief stint as a foreign affairs minister.
The death of the party veteran, who dominated the politics of Gujarat before the rise of the BJP and Narendra Modi, is a big loss for the Congress which had won 149 out of the 182 seats in the state elections held in 1985, a record-of-sorts which still remains unbroken.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who remained a star of the Gujarat politics for years, acknowledged Solanki's stature in his condolence tweet as, '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'.
The 93-year-old Congress veteran breathed his last at his residence in Gandhinagar on Saturday morning.
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 an MLA from then Bombay state in 1957 when Gujarat and Maharashtra were not separated.
He became an MLA of the Gujarat Assembly in 1960, after the two states were separated on a linguistic basis.
In 1975, Solanki became the president of Gujarat Congress unit, and after that, he never looked back.
He became chief minister of Gujarat in December 1976, but his tenure lasted only till 1977.
However, Solanki got another chance in 1980.
The idea of an alliance of the Kshatriyas, Harijans, Adivasis (tribasl) and Muslims (KHAM) worked wonders for the Congress.
However, Solanki was forced to step down again as CM in March, 1985, after he cleared reservation for OBCs on the recommendations of Justice Baxi commission which triggered anti-quota protests.
Sensing opportunity in the prevalent social scenario at that time, he decided to consolidate the Congress' hold in the west Indian state through social engineering and experimented with KHAM.
In the assembly elections held in 1985, the Congress led by Solanki won unprecedented 149 seats of the total 182 seats in the state Assembly, a fete which has no parallel in the history of the state politics.
However, as the anti-quota agitation continued and culminated into communal riots, Solanki once again resigned as chief minister in July 1985, just five months after he became the CM for the third time in the state.
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 became CM.
As a politician, Solanki is credited to introduce the mid-day meal scheme which was later adopted in primary schools in the entire country and for offering free education to girls in Gujarat.
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 then Switzerland foreign minister in Davos during which he allegedly made some remarks regarding the Bofors case probe.
Solanki had also served as a two term MP of Rajya Sabha from Gujarat.
Paradoxically, the very KHAM formula of Solanki, which alienated upper caste Hindus from the Congress, 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. During the last 18 years, Solanki pursued his interest in reading and promoting culture.
He mostly played as a mentor for budding politicians.
Former state Congress president Arjun Modhvadia recalled that Solanki was the first person to call him up after he had delivered his first speech as an MLA in the Legislative Assembly.
'He used to guide us like a mentor,' Modhvadia said.
Solanki's son Bharatsinh Solanki is a former Union minister. PTI PD NSK NSK