Rising from a humble police sub-inspector in Mumbai, veteran Congress leader Sushilkumar Shinde was Tuesday appointed India’s new home minister, a position considered by many as next only to the prime minister.
A soft-spoken, perpetually smiling individual, never known to lose his cool in the gravest of crises, Shinde (72) worked his way up the political ladder over the past nearly five decades.
Born to a Dalit family in Solapur Sep 4, 1941, Shinde graduated with honours in arts from the Dayanand College and then obtained a law degree from Shivaji University.
However, he discarded his traditional agricultural background and went into government service – first as an office assistant in a local court, then as a law-enforcer (policeman) and then as a law-maker.
At the behest of Sharad Pawar, now the agriculture minister in the United Progressive Alliance government, Shinde took the plunge into active politics in 1971. However, years later, when Pawar twice parted ways twice with the Congress, Shinde remained loyal to the parent organisation.
He won his first election three years later from a reserved assembly constituency, Karmala, in his home district and the then Maharashtra chief minister V.P. Naik, inducted him as a junior minister in the government.
From then on, Shinde never looked back and went on to win four successive elections after that till his election to Rajya Sabha in 1992. In the meantime, Shinde served as state finance minister for a record nine years under different chief ministers and later successfully contested two Lok Sabha elections from the state.
In between, he was Congress leader Sonia Gandhi’s election manager during the 1999 Lok Sabha polls.
He again shot into the national limelight when he was nominated by the Congress for the Vice-President elections in 2002 and was pitted against the ruling National Democratic Alliance’s senior leader Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.
However, given the adverse numbers game, Shinde lost the election to the country’s second highest constitutional post.
The following year, 2003, he bounced back to limelight when he was appointed Maharashtra’s first Dalit chief minister, replacing his close friend Vilasrao Deshmukh, who is also his colleague in the present UPA cabinet.
However, he again handed over the baton to Deshmukh after the 2004 eletions when the Congress alliance was swept to power for a second term.
This time, the Congress compensated Shinde with a governor’s post in Andhra Pradesh, which he discarded after barely after a year and plunged back into active politics.
A year later, in 2006, Shinde was elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra and has been a prominent Maharashtra face at the Centre, serving in various capacities.
As the home minister, he occupies a post first held by the stalwart of India’s freedom struggle, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and later by Maharashtrians like Y.B. Chavan, S.B. Chavan and Shivraj Patil. Shinde has authored books in English and Marathi, including the popular “Vichar Ved” in his mother tongue which was later translated in Hindi as “Vichar Manthan”.
Shinde is married to Ujjwala and the couple has three daughters. One of them, Praniti, is a legislator in Maharashtra.