The entire district of Latur woke up to a lifeless morning on Wednesday. From the moment word about Vilasrao Deshmukh’s death spread, people from his native village, Babhalgaon, have been in mourning.
All shops at Ganj Golai at the heart of Latur City, Gole Market and even Tilak Nagar—which is otherwise a busy area—were closed as though in grief. Tilak Nagar, which houses the Tehsildar’s office, the local court and the Latur Municipal Corporation, did not see more than a few government employees attending tricolour hoisting ceremonies. With the shutters of all shops closed, it seemed like an indefinite bandh had been called.
In the midst of all the silence, a newspaper stall inside the ST bus stand was bustling with activity. The sole stall owner was being thronged by people wanting to read about their leader in Ekmat, the Latur-based newspaper founded by Vilasrao’s eldest son, Amit Deshmukh. When asked about the sudden crowd, the usually mild tempered stall owner who was then driven to yelling at his customers, said, “Amacha baap gelay na (This is because our father has died).”
Finding it difficult to express their feelings about Vilasrao, two brothers—Vijay and Sangameshwar Khanapure—who run Aai’s digital graphics, said, “His role in the progress of Latur was unprecedented.”
Such was the impact of Vilasrao’s contribution to Latur that people are wondering who could take his legacy forward. As the young boy serving tea at a stall on the Kurduwadi bypass summed up, “Vilasrao transformed Latur in just seven years. No other leader could have done this in even seventy years.”