Meet Sudhir Mungantiwar, Minister for Finance & Planning and Forest, Government of Maharashtra. Easily the No. 2 in the state cabinet, a politician with a lot of clout in the state and of course in the BJP circles, nationally.
Vajpayee, shrewd and seasoned politician that he is, had seen the potential of this educated, earnest and ambitious young man a long time ago, when he was PM. No wonder then that as predicted, Sudhir Mungantiwar, MLA and ex Minister in the first BJP- Shivsena Government of Maharashtra quickly rose to become the President of the state BJP unit. That is when he burst into the consciousness of the whole state. “Who IS this man?” People were asking.
Born on July 30, 1962, Mungantiwar hails from Vidarbha region’s Chandrapur district. Son of a renowned Doctor, Sudhir is highly qualified and has completed M.Com, LLB, M Phil, DBM and BJ. He is a four-time MLA, and has been the Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection Department during the Shiv Sena-BJP saffron alliance regime.
There were no politicians in his immediate family, but at the age of 17 he entered the fray of student politics. And hasn’t looked back since then. He was so self assured and confident that the very first election he contested was for the Lok Sabha – that is when Vajapayee met him and made the above comment about him, impressed with his elocution skills and his personality.
By now everyone knows a great deal about this man as a politician.
We wanted to know the man behind the facade of the politician: how is he as a husband, as a father, what are his hobbies, what he likes to do in his pass time – if he gets any!
Meeting him in person at short notice is impossible, so I did the interview on telephone, as he was traveling between Nagpur and Chandrapur and was supposed to have some free time in the car. But even these 15 minutes of talk-time could be achieved after false starts, delays and lot of nail biting tension at my end! Finally, when I had almost given up, the Minister gave me a very pleasant surprise by ringing me up himself! Have never known a successful politician, let alone a Minister do that, ever. Not to someone they have never met or spoken to yet. This action of his spoke volumes about him : that he is a cool person who does not stand on formalities.
When I asked him about his family and how much time he can give them, he laughed.
“Very little – but they have no complains. My wife Sapna is my lucky omen. Since I got married to her in 1990 I have not seen electoral defeat in any election.” He said. His political innings had come a long way by then – he had already been the Jt. Secretary of the state BJP at a very young age.
When I asked Sapna about this, she too found the question very humorous.
“My daughter and me have been looking forward to a holiday in Australia since Shalaka appeared for her M.B.B.S final exams. We have some relatives there and we thought it would be a nice change. But forget Australia, he hasn’t taken us to a movie even! There has been no time for it since the elections were declared. First there was the election work, then he became Finance Minister and had to present his first budget which he wanted to be the best. It seems impossible now that he will find so much time – if he eats two square meals at proper times, I shall be happy!”
Australia, may or may not be on the cards this year but Mungantiwar, though belonging to a small town, keeps a large world view. Among the books he is reading is one written by the first P.M. of Singapore Lee Kuan Yeow, who just passed away. What impressed him most was Lee’s statement that though Singapore was a poor and very backward country when he became its first PM, he always kept the best and finest models before him for his country. This bridge in USA, that flyover in France, this University in UK… he would mark them out and ask his officers to study the design and know the details. “We are going to build that in Singapore” he would say. And he did it” says Mungantiwar.
“But Singapore is a very small country. Even Lee said what he did there cannot be done in India which is more like a group of countries, joined by the Railway line” I pointed out.
“I don’t believe he would have said that. Anyway, I do not believe it, let apologists who have failed the country make these excuses. If the country is too large, do it for your state – at least do it for your city, but for God’s sake have a grand vision” says the Minister.
Before life became so hectic and even sleep became precious, he and his family used to go on holidays, in India or abroad once a year. They have been to London and to Hong Kong.
I live in three cities, says Sudhir Mungantiwar . “In Nagpur my daughter, my wife and my in laws are my family; in Chandrapur it is my father and my brother and his kids – Mumbai is the seat of the government. His only child, a daughter is following the family tradition from both sides and studying medicine.
“She always desired to be a Doctor and we encouraged her to the hilt. We wanted only one child and it made no difference whether it was a boy or a girl” he says , very much the proud father.
This Minister with a world view who would like to make a Singapore out of Maharashtra at least still gets emotional when speaking about India.
“We are so blessed. We get both perfect sun rises and sun sets at regular hours the year round. Look at Sweden or Norway! They have six months of day and six months of light’; look at Europe or USA, they have months when the sun rises in the early morning and does not set even at 10 p.m. And then they have months when it becomes light at 8 a.m. and dark at 3-4 p.m. We get sunlight for 11- 12 hours the year round. We have all the natural beauty the world has to offer – beaches, mountains, forests, everything. We have the best peace loving, civilized and cultured people. What more could one ask for?”
Regular days and regular nights are fine for other Indians. But for this man it is work round the clock. He had his first meal of the day at 4.30 p.m. He left for Chandrapur, attended the IMA installation there and returned home at 3 a.m. Tonight he leaves for Mumbai.
With the state in the able and sincere hands of people like that, I think the rest of us can afford our sleep.
… Sunita Mudliyar